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USTR Requests WTO Consultation With EU

Washington — The United States has requested World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute-settlement consultations with the European Union (EU) regarding duties the EU is imposing on certain products the United States claims should be duty-free under the WTO Information Technology Agreement (ITA).

The ITA is an agreement negotiated under the auspices of the WTO in 1996 that eliminated duties/import tariffs on a range of IT products.

According to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Susan Schwab’s office, the group that filed the request on behalf of the United States, the EU adopted a series of measures following ITA that resulted in new duties on imports of specific products like cable and satellite boxes that can access the Internet, flat-panel computer monitors and certain multifunction printers. The USTR said the EU is claiming it can charge duties on these products “simply because they incorporate newer technologies or additional features” not mentioned in the 1996 agreement. The USTR is arguing that these products with newer features should still be protected by the original agreement and is alleging that the EU is “taxing innovation — a move that could impair continued technological development in the information technology industry and raise prices for millions of businesses and consumers.”

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has released a statement in support of the USTR’s move to eliminate the EU’s tariffs, which it says impact the ability of American companies to export to Europe.