| GENEVA, Sept 23
GENEVA, Sept 23 The World Trade Organisation set
up a panel on Tuesday to examine a dispute over the European
Union's tariffs on high-tech goods, a WTO spokeswoman said.
The United States, Japan and Taiwan say the EU, officially
known at the WTO as the European Communities (EC), is violating
a 1996 WTO deal to limit barriers on trade in high-tech goods
such as satellite boxes, flat panel computer monitors and
digital scanners and printers.
"The EC's actions not only impede trade in these products,
they also threaten to undermine tariff commitments on
information technology products, which are so important to trade
and investment in both developing and developed countries," the
United States told the WTO's dispute settlement body.
The row centres on the interpretation of the WTO's
Information Technology Agreement (ITA), which eliminated duties
on a range of high-tech goods from July 1997 to encourage trade.
But since 2005 the EU has re-imposed duties on new versions
of computer screens, multi-function printers and TV set-top
boxes that can access the Internet, classifying those as
consumer products rather than simply high-tech goods.
Washington estimates that global exports of the products
covered by the WTO dispute, which are made by companies like
Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ.N) of the United States or Canon Inc.
(7751.T) and Ricoh Co. Ltd. (7752.T) of Japan, total more than
Last week Brussels called for the ITA to be overhauled and
updated to add new products and include more markets than the
current 70 economies that have signed up to date.
Taiwan welcomed the EU's proposal, but said the products in
the dispute were covered by the current ITA and so were entitled
to duty-free treatment.
"As one of the largest suppliers of IT products in the
world, our trade interests have been seriously injured by the
EC's measures," Taiwan said in a statement to the WTO.
The EU expressed regret that the other countries had not
agreed to a review of the ITA as provided for in the agreement.
"We remain confident that the products in question in these
disputes are correctly classified and receive the tariff
treatment provided for in the EC schedules of concessions, and
we are consequently ready to defend our position before a
panel," it said in a statement.
The EU rejected the initial request for a panel last month,
but under WTO rules could not block it a second time.
(Editing by Sami Aboudi)