* EU accepts WTO ruling on technology, urges negotiations
* Ruling allows possibility of technical change in products
By Jonathan Lynn
GENEVA, Sept 21 The World Trade Organization
adopted a ruling on Tuesday condemning controversial European
duties on electronics products after the European Union declined
to appeal against the verdict by WTO judges.
The United States, Japan and Taiwan had challenged the EU
tariffs on flat-panel displays, multi-function printers and
television set-top boxes which they said violated the WTO's
Information Technology Agreement.
Accepting some aspects of the finding, the EU renewed its
call for a reform of the agreement, which eliminates duties on
some information technology (IT) goods to foster trade in them,
adding that further litigation was counter-productive.
"Litigation on a small set of products should never divert
attention from negotiations on a broad set of products, not to
mention all the other issues that still need to be agreed ... to
further liberalise trade in IT products," an EU diplomat told a
session of the WTO's dispute settlement body.
U.S. trade officials estimated worldwide trade in the three
products at $44 billion in 2009, and the EU's 27 member states
imported $7 billion worth of the products that year.
The 1996 agreement, which is voluntary, abolished tariffs
among 72 countries on certain electronics products.
But the EU had argued that added functionality since the
agreement was reached meant some products were now consumer
goods rather than information technology of the kind the
agreement was intended to encourage.
For example it said that flat-panel computer displays could
now serve as television screens.
But a Japanese diplomat told the WTO meeting that IT
products should not be treated less favourably or penalised
"simply because, with additional features and functions, they
have become smarter, more sophisticated and more advanced".
A U.S. official said the ruling provided an important
foundation for further negotiations on duty-free treatment of
additional electronics products in the Doha round to open world
trade -- a key goal of Washington in the long-running talks.
Taiwan's WTO ambassador, Yi-fu Lin, welcomed the adoption of
the ruling, saying the products involved made up a significant
part of the island's trade and were vital for its economy.
U.S. electronics producers like Hewlett-Packard (HPQ.N),
Motorola MOT.N and Cisco (CSCO.O) unit Scientifc Atlantic and
Asian producers like South Korea's Samsung (005930.KS) and LG
Display (034220.KS) or Taiwan's AU Optronics (2409.TW) had been
waiting to see whether Brussels would challenge the WTO ruling.
In another dispute, the EU and United States told the WTO
committee they would extend efforts to agree on how Washington
implements a WTO ruling that faulted its method of calculating
duties on unfairly-priced imports, delaying the prospect of EU
The dispute body set up a panel at Mexico's request to
examine whether the United States was complying with an earlier
WTO ruling in a separate dispute on the same issue.
(editing by Paul Taylor)