- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 29, 2008

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The United States filed a complaint yesterday with the World Trade Organization over European tariffs on three categories of high-tech goods, including flat-panel computer monitors and some printers.

The duties, which are as high as 14 percent, make U.S. exports less competitive in the European Union, according to the Information Technology Industry Council, a trade association. The group’s members include Hewlett-Packard Co., Apple Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc.

The complaint, strongly supported by the U.S. high-tech industry, charges that the European Union’s duties violate a 1996 WTO agreement that eliminated tariffs on information technology equipment.

“The EU is effectively taxing innovation,” U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Susan C. Schwab said. “We wanted to make sure that the commitments to give duty-free treatment to these products would be maintained in the face of the evolution of technology.”

The European Union has said it can charge duties on the goods - which include cable and satellite boxes that can access the Internet and printers that can also scan, fax and copy - because they include new technologies developed since the agreement was signed.

Total worldwide exports of the products included in the complaint totaled $70 billion in 2007.

The WTO confirmed yesterday that it received the U.S. complaint, which initiates a 60-day consultation period with the European Union. After that, the United States may ask a WTO panel to rule on the dispute. WTO panels can take 12 to 18 months to resolve disputes.

The European Commission said in a statement that it was willing to renegotiate the 1996 Information Technology Agreement to cover new products, but the United States has refused to do so.

Japan has also filed a complaint against the European Union on the same issue, the USTR said.

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