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U.S. may take action on EU electronics tariffs

A man passes by a 108-inch LCD monitor, the world's largest at the Sharp booth, during the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada January 8, 2007. The United States is considering action against the European Union with the World Trade Organization over tariffs that the EU imposes on certain electronics products, Trade Representative Susan Schwab said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - The United States is considering action against the European Union with the World Trade Organization over tariffs that the EU imposes on certain electronics products, Trade Representative Susan Schwab said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Schwab said the U.S. is talking to other countries who also feel that EU tariffs on products like set-top boxes are a violation of the Information Technology Agreement, which has been in place since 1997.

The ITA calls on 70 WTO members that account for about 97 percent of world trade in technology products to eliminate tariffs on IT goods such as computers and computer parts.

Europe has imposed or has threatened to impose tariffs on products like multi-function printers, certain liquid crystal display monitors and set-top boxes, arguing it can impose tariffs on those items because they were not invented when the ITA was negotiated, Schwab said.

Those items, according to Schwab, are products that are covered under the agreement that have evolved and added new features. For example, Europe regards LCD monitors over 19 inches as televisions, which are not covered under the ITA.

“We’re kind of burned out on the jaw-boning side of the equation. It’s not working,” said Schwab. “We are looking at going to resolution on the ITA with the World Trade Organization.”

Schwab said she would prefer not to litigate, because it is time-consuming and it does not solve the fundamental issue of whether “convergence” products -- technology items that can perform more than one function -- are covered under the ITA.

Reporting by Daisuke Wakabayashi; Editing by Paul Bolding

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