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WTO Panel to Examine Unfair Customs Claim

GENEVA — The World Trade Organization agreed Monday to set up a dispute panel to examine the U.S.’s complaint that the lack of uniform customs laws among the 25 nations of the European Union are an unnecessary barrier to...

GENEVA — The World Trade Organization agreed Monday to set up a dispute panel to examine the U.S.’s complaint that the lack of uniform customs laws among the 25 nations of the European Union are an unnecessary barrier to commerce.

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Linnet F. Deily said the varying measures “amount to a trade barrier that is especially burdensome for small and medium-size companies.”

In 2003, U.S. merchandise exports to the EU reached $155.2 billion, according to government statistics

“The U.S. is concerned with the nonuniform application of customs law and the failure by the EU to maintain a forum for prompt review and correction of administrative action relating to customs matters,” Deily told a session of the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body, according to a copy of prepared remarks she delivered at the closed meeting.

The national customs authorities of member states carry out administration of customs measures in the EU. The U.S. asserted it would be more equitable for the EU to have a single set of customs rules and practices.

The U.S. complained that EU states maintain different rules on such measures as origin certificates and processing express deliveries, as well as varying penalties for infractions of customs rules. In response, the EU delegation argued that the U.S. failed to provide specific examples of how U.S. firms were hurt by the rules.

The EU asserted that demands for Brussels to establish a single centralized customs authority is an internal affair and goes beyond what is required under global trade norms, said WTO officials who attended the hearing.

This story first appeared in the March 22, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.