The United States has called for the WTO to set up a complaints panel to investigate EU customs rules, which Washington says penalize US exports.
World Trade Organization (WTO)headquarters in Geneva
The call for a dispute settlements panel is the latest stage in mounting new trans-Atlantic trade hostilities.
The US government filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization on Sept. 21 condemning inconsistencies in EU customs rules, which are handled differently by different states in the 25-member bloc.
Lack of uniformity cited
"Consultations between the US and the EU were held in mid-November, but were unable to resolve the dispute," said a statement by the US Trade representative's office.
10 Eastern states joined the EU on May 1.
"Although the EU is a customs union, there is no single EU customs administration," it added. "Lack of uniformity, coupled with lack of procedures for prompt EU-wide review, can hinder US exports, particularly for small to mid-size businesses.
"WTO rules require WTO members to administer their customs laws in a uniform, impartial and reasonable manner. They also require members to provide tribunals for prompt review and correction of administrative action relating to customs matters. The United States considers that the EU fails to meet either of these requirements."
Customs treatment is a longstanding US complaint, but the administration said it was acting now because 10 new members joined the European Union on May 1, 2004.
Examining sugar subsidies
Meanwhile, the European Union lodged an appeal on Thursday against a WTO ruling that branded subsidies for sugar production as illegal, an EU spokesman said.
"We have extremely solid foundations to allow our view to prevail in an appeal," Fabian Delcros, a spokesman for
the EU delegation to the WTO, told AFP.
The EU's move came one month after the three countries that filed the original complaint against the EU subsidies -- Australia, Brazil and Thailand -- agreed to extend the deadline for an appeal, which had been due to expire in December.
The WTO dispute-settlement body had ruled last October that subsidized exports from the EU had been exceeding an agreed 1,273,000 ton-per-year export limit since 1995.