Feeds

US protests to WTO over EU 'IT' tariffs

EU stands ground

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The US and Japan today filed complaints with the World Trade Organization over European Union tariffs on imported flat-screen monitors, some TV set-top boxes, and printers able to scan, fax and copy.

The Office of US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said the United States has requested the World Trade Organization help resolve the ongoing dispute over the EU taxing consumer electronics goods that should, she says, be duty-free under the WTO Information Technology Agreement. USTR also said Japan has filed a similar complaint.

The 1996 agreement eliminates import duties on computers, telecommunication equipment, semiconductors, semiconductor manufacturing equipment, software, and scientific equipment.

But the EU says the contested products can be taxed because they include technologies and features developed after the accord was signed. It claims changes in technology make some products "objectively different" and fall outside the original product categories covered by the ITA. Extensions to the agreement should not be automatic, but based on periodic review.

"The EU should be working with the United States to promote new technologies, not finding protectionist gimmicks to apply new duties to these products," US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said today in a statement. "Therefore, we urge the EU to eliminate permanently the new duties and to cease manipulating tariffs to discourage technological innovation."

The EU said it "strongly rejects" the complaints made by the US and Japan, and argues that Washington has refused to negotiate changes to the scope of the agreement.

"The EU has always expressed its willingness to reassess product coverage under the ITA to reflect changes in technology since 1996. The ITA has a review clause which can be invoked by members at any time. The EU has said it is willing to negotiate with all other ITA members. The US is not willing to do this. Why not?"

But the USTR says it has argued with EU officials on repeated occasions in the past 20 months over the tariffs. By filing a complaint, the WTO will now step in with consultants to help resolve the dispute within 60 days. If an agreement cannot be reached by that time, the US and Japan are entitled to request a WTO panel to determine if the EU is following its trade obligations.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Electronics Association said it applauds the action taken against the tariffs.

"Misclassification of currently covered products by the EU could set a disastrous precedent and undermine the future success and relevance of the ITA," said Michael Petricone, CEO senior veep of government affairs. "The EU’s attempt to subject members to tariffs on products previously classified as duty-free should be resolved in the WTO, and we commend USTR for seeking consultations to rectify the situation.”

Product dispute

The EU provides a breakdown of why it thinks the three products shouldn't be covered by the ITA:

Flat-screen monitors: The ITA gives duty-free treatment to computer monitors. However, the EU says some modern screens with Digital Visual Interface (DVI) connectors allow the screens to be used with consumer electronics such as DVD players and are therefore not covered.

Set-top boxes:: The ITA bans tariffs on set-top boxes that can access the internet. But the EU claims some boxes which include a hard disk used for pausing live TV or recording don't have the required internet functions — and should be classified as video recorders.

Multifunctional Printers: The EU claims the US has changed its mind over whether these printers should be covered by the ITA. The EU says at the time of negotiations, the EU requested that all photocopiers be covered. But the US opposed this and as a result, machines that use an electrostatic print engine were classified outside ITA coverage. Most multifunction printers use this technology. The EU claims the US has reversed its opinion, but doesn't want to make changes through the ITA's review mechanism. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Bono apologises for iTunes album dump
Megalomania, generosity and FEAR of irrelevance drove group to Apple deal
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
10 Top Tips For PRs Considering Whether To Phone The Register
You'll Read These And LOL Even Though They're Serious
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.