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United States Wins WTO Dispute with EU on High-Tech Products

Victory for American Tech Sector Jobs, Trade, and Investment as Panel Finds European Tariffs WTO-Inconsistent

Washington, D.C. – Today United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced that a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement panel upheld the U.S. claim that the European Union (EU) violated its WTO tariff commitments by imposing duties as high as 14% on three high-tech products. For all three products at issue – flat panel computer monitors, multifunction printers, and certain cable, satellite, and other set-top boxes – the Panel concluded that the EU tariffs were inconsistent with its obligations. The report helps ensure that U.S. producers of high-tech products will continue to be able to export those products to Europe duty-free as guaranteed by commitments made by the European Union following the WTO Information Technology Agreement (ITA).

“This is an important victory for U.S. technology manufacturers and workers, as well as the millions of consumers who use these products every day at work and at home, and a prime example of how USTR and the Obama Administration are enforcing trade agreements that are vital to U.S. interests,” said Ambassador Kirk. “This ruling affirms the principle that changes in technology are not an excuse to apply new duties to products covered by the Information Technology Agreement. Technological innovation drives economic growth and improves living standards for working families and consumers in all countries. The high-tech sector is a vital part of our economy and has played a leading role in many states’ economic growth.”

These products were included in the WTO’s ITA, a major achievement of the post-Uruguay Round WTO that resulted in the elimination of duties on a wide range of high-tech products that Americans use every day, such as computers, peripherals, and telecommunications products. The EU claimed it could charge duties on them simply because they incorporate newer technologies or additional features. In effect, the EU is taxing innovation – a move that could impair continued technological development in the information technology industry and raise prices for millions of businesses and consumers.

BACKGROUND

The United States, along with Japan and Chinese Taipei, brought this case in 2008, to address a series of EU actions resulting in the imposition of new duties on imports of high-tech products covered by the ITA. The EU measures affected three key products in particular: (1) cable, satellite, and other set-top boxes, (2) flat panel computer monitors, and (3) certain computer printers that can also scan, fax and/or copy. Global exports of these products were estimated at over $44 billion in 2009.