WTO slams EU for duties on consumer electronic goods

17 Aug 2010

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has backed complaints against the EU by the US, Japan and Taiwan over what they say are excessive duties on electronic products.

The countries say the EU breached the WTO’s Information Technology agreement by imposing duties on flat panel displays, multinfunction printers and TV set-top boxes.

The Information Technology Agreement signed in 1996 abolished tariffs among 72 countries on computer products like screens and printers to foster trade among the countries.

But the changing nature of these products, for example flat panel computer displays doubling as TVs and multifunction printers being effective networking hubs, scanners and faxes, led the EU to decide that some products were not entitled to the zero tariffs.

The decision by the WTO was welcomed by the US trade represewntative Ron Kirk who said it was an important victory for the US and said that changes in technology were no excuse to add new duties.

“If one or more EC member states were found to have applied WTO inconsistent measures, be they enacted by the States themselves or by the European Communities, it could be appropriate to find that the member States have acted inconsistently with their WTO obligations,” the WTO panel said in its ruling.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years