U.S. Files WTO Complaint Over EU Customs System

By Agence France-Presse The United States said Sept. 21 it was filing a complaint against the European Union before the Geneva-based World Trade Organization, arguing that inconsistencies in EU customs rules hinder U.S. exports. U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Zoellick said U.S. 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 U.S. exports, particularly for small to midsize businesses." The trade office said a lack of customs uniformity results in different tariffs and rules for U.S. exports depending on the destination. "These problems are compounded by an inability to obtain prompt EU-wide review of national administrative decisions," the trade office statement said. "An importer or other interested party has to wend its way through national administrative and/or judicial appeals before obtaining an authoritative determination from an EU-level tribunal." U.S. officials said Washington decided to bring the case in light of the recent EU expansion from 15 member states to 25. "By pressing this issue now, we hope to address this problem early in the EU's process of dealing with the challenges of enlargement," the USTR statement said. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2004

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