WTO gives go-ahead to US tariffs

THE US was given permission yesterday to impose 100 per cent import duties on $116m worth of European goods. The sanctions, about half the level the US had asked for but twice that sought by the Europeans, reflect the damage the trade body thinks has been inflicted by an illegal EU ban on North American hormone-treated beef.

Goods from a preliminary list which included Danish ham, Belgian chocolates and motorcycles could be affected as early as next week. Canada also won permission to apply sanctions worth C$11m ($8m) on goods from a hit- list including beef, gingerbread, gin, and vodka.

But EU officials still hope that 11th-hour talks will persuade the US to accept compensation in the form of greater market access for other US goods instead of imposing the tariffs, which will effectively close the US market to the designated goods.

It was the second such finding against the EU in recent months. The WTO also gave the US permission to apply $191m of sanctions in the long-running dispute over Europe's rules on banana imports, which it found discriminated unfairly against American producers.

Charlene Barshefsky, the US trade representative, said yesterday: "The EU must pay a price for failing to comply with its WTO obligations.."

The WTO approved the principle of EU sanctions in May after Brussels failed to meet a deadline to comply with a ruling against its ban on imports of hormone-treated beef. The EU maintains some hormones may cause cancer and is conducting further studies on their safety. It has refused to lift the ban, even though it has been ruled illegal.

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