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Saturday, July 28, 2007

EU Halts WTO Probe Into India's Import Tariffs

New Delhi, India (AHN) - Following India's recent easing of tariffs on imported beer, wine and spirits, the European Union has halted a probe by the World Trade Organization into India's import tariffs, on Monday.

"EU wines and spirits exporters deserve a level playing field in India," said Peter Power, spokesman for EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said in an AP report. "This decision brings us closer to that goal."

Nonetheless, Brussels responded that it regrets India's decision to raise basic duty on wines from 100 percent to 150 percent.

Taxes on imported alcohol like French wine and Scottish whisky were as high as 550 percent in India, before the recent modifications were made.

The U.S. has also made a comparable case with the WTO regarding India's alcohol imports. However, U.S. officials have declined to comment if it will make a similar decision on the same issue.

According to an AP report, India is one of the biggest markets for alcohol and related products. However, imports account for a very low percent of the total consumption in the country. Both Brussels and Washington raised issue with New Delhi saying that the high taxes of imports were unfair trade practices designed to keep other countries were tapping the world's most populous democracy's market.

In comparison, almost all spirits enter the U.S., EU and Japan, virtually duty-free. And China, which has been accused by the U.S. and EU for devaluing its currency to keep its goods cheap in the global market, charges a 10 percent tax on imported liquor.

The EU said in a statement that the WTO panel currently probing the case on India may be suspended for a year, while it observes improvements in trade practices between the two: "The European Commission will now continue to monitor the situation on the ground to make sure that no new discriminations appear at state level," reports BBC news.

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