EU, US and Mexico Request WTO Panel on Chinese Export Restriction on Raw Materials
In June 2008, the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) announced the beginning of World Trade Organisation (WTO) consultations with China regarding certain export restrictions, such as quotas and export duties, imposed by China on key raw materials, i.e. various forms of bauxite, coke, fluorspar, magnesium, manganese, silicon carbide, silicon metal, yellow phosphorous and zinc. The EU and US complained that these measures were in breach of China's WTO obligations and of specific commitments that China had undertaken as part of its WTO Accession Protocol. They argued that the restrictions had led to increased global prices and distorted competition between Chinese and non-Chinese companies. Moreover, some of these substances could be found only in China. The main industry sectors affected by the measures were the chemical, steel and aluminium industries, representing about 4 per cent of the EU’s industrial activity, according to data submitted by the European Commission.
As no amicable solution to these export restrictions has been found, on 4 November 2009 the EU requested the establishment of a dispute settlement panel at the WTO. Similar requests were made by the US and Mexico.
The request for a panel must first be considered by the Dispute Settlement Body. If the request is accepted the panel will be established at the latest during the following Dispute Settlement Body meeting, currently scheduled for 19 November.
EU-US Energy Star Programme: New Specifications for Computer Monitors
On 29 October 2009 the European Commission and the US Environmental Protection Agency agreed to adopt new technical specifications for computer monitors under the EU-US Energy Star Programme.
The programme consists of a voluntary energy labelling programme aimed at increasing energy savings and environmental benefits by promoting the supply of and demand for energy-efficient products. Products that meet certain agreed specifications and are tested either by the manufacturer or by an independent laboratory may bear the Energy Star® label, which is a registered mark owned by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The Energy Star Programme was established by the US Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy in 1992. It applies to products such as office equipment, lighting and home electronics. In 2000 the US and EU reached an agreement that allowed the EU to implement an energy efficiency labelling programme for office equipment (including computers, monitors, printers, fax machines, copiers, scanners and multifunction devices) modelled on the US programme.
This revision of the technical specifications reflects the need to ensure that the Energy Star® label continues to represent the highest level in the field of energy efficiency. Indeed, according to data delivered by the European Commission, the new criteria for computer monitors are expected to save approximately 9TWh on the European territory, based on purchases over the next three years. The new energy-efficiency criteria affect the power consumption requirements of “On”, “Off” and “Sleep” modes. They take effect on 30 October 2009 for computer monitors with diagonal screen sizes below 30 inches and on 30 January 2010 for computer monitors with diagonal screen sizes from 30 to 60 inches.