EU loses in WTO information technology row: sources

GENEVA Mon Jul 26, 2010 11:46am BST

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GENEVA (Reuters) - A World Trade Organisation panel has ruled that the European Union was wrong to impose duties on three types of electronics products from the United States and other countries, trade sources said on Monday.

The WTO panel backed the United States as well as Japan and Taiwan in their complaint that EU duties on flat-panel displays, multifunction printers and television set-top boxes violated the WTO's Information Technology Agreement (ITA).

That 1996 agreement eliminated duties among a group of 72 participating countries on goods like computer screens and printers to promote trade in high-tech products.

But the European Union argued that added functionality meant some of these products were now also consumer goods not covered by the agreement rather than information technology products and therefore should not benefit from the lower duties.

As a result, it imposed duties ranging from 6 to 14 percent on the three products. EU imports of the three products from all suppliers totaled about $11 billion in 2007.

"Most of our arguments were accepted by the panel," said an official from one of the complaining countries.

The WTO panel issued the panel report on a confidential basis to the parties in the dispute on Friday. On Saturday, officials in Taiwan said the ruling would save exporters of flat-screen tariffs up to $611 million a year.

Major flat screen makers in Asia include South Korea's Samsung Electronics and LG Display and Taiwan's AU Optronics.

The report will be published around the end of August when it has been translated into other WTO official languages, after which the EU has 60 days in which to appeal.

There was no official comment from the four parties to the dispute.

(Reporting by Jonathan Lynn)

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