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Thu, Sep 23, 2004 - Page 12 News List

US slammed for filing complaint at WTO against EU

AFP , BRUSSELS

The European Commission said on Tuesday it regretted Washing-ton's announcement that it was filing a complaint against the EU before the WTO over the EU's customs system.

"We regret the US move to bring this issue to the WTO rather than using the bilateral EU-US Joint Customs Council, which would have provided a better forum for resolving these issues," said spokeswoman Arancha Gonzalez for Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy in a statement.

"We now hope that any disagreement over this matter can be satisfactorily resolved in consultations and that we do not need to move to litigation," she said.

"The consultations will give us an opportunity to explain to the US that we fully comply with all WTO rules relating to customs matters," she added.

The US said earlier Tuesday it was filing the complaint against the EU arguing that inconsistencies in EU customs rules hinder US exports. US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said US exporters faced obstacles because customs administration in the EU is handled differently by different member states.

"Although the EU is a customs union, there is no single EU customs administration," Zoellick's office said in a statement. "Lack of uniformity, coupled with lack of procedures for prompt EU-wide review, can hinder US exports, particularly for small to mid-size businesses."

US officials said Washington decided to bring the case in light of the recent EU expansion. US exports to the 25 countries last year totaled US$155.2 billion.

A comission source expressed surprise at the US action, saying: "The nature of the US concerns are somewhat unclear to the EC, and the US did not exhaust the possibilities of finding a solution through bilateral discussions."

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