US group files WTO complaint over EU tariffs

The US has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization over European tariffs on three categories of high tech goods, an Asociated Press report said.

The duties, which are as high as 14%, make US exports less competitive in the European Union, according to the Information Technology Industry Council, a trade association.

The group's members include Hewlett-Packard, Apple and Cisco Systems, the Associated Press report said.

The complaint, strongly supported by the US high tech industry, charges that the EU's duties violate a 1996 WTO agreement that eliminated tariffs on information technology equipment.

'The EU is effectively taxing innovation,' US Trade Representative Susan Schwab was quoted as saying. 'We wanted to make sure that the commitments to give duty-free treatment to these products would be maintained in the face of the evolution of technology.'

The EU has said it can charge duties on the goods, which include cable and satellite boxes that can access the internet and printers that can also scan, fax and copy, because they include new technologies developed since the agreement was signed.

Total worldwide exports of the products included in the complaint totaled €44.7 billion (US$70 billion) in 2007.

The WTO confirmed that it received the US complaint, which initiates a 60-day consultation period with the European Union.

After that, the US may ask a WTO panel to rule on the dispute. WTO panels can take 12 to 18 months to resolve disputes.