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Associated Press WTO Gives EU Drug Trafficking Deadline 09.20.2004, 10:13 AM
The European Union has until July of next year to modify a trade deal aimed at countering the production of illegal narcotics, the World Trade Organization ruled Monday.
An arbitrator gave the 25-nation bloc 14 months and 11 days, starting from the date in April when the WTO officially declared illegal the "Special Arrangements to Combat Drug Production and Trafficking."
The EU had wanted at least 20 months, while India - the country that brought the original complaint - said that six months would be enough.
A WTO legal panel ruled last year that the EU's special low import tariffs, introduced in 2001 to encourage exports of legitimate products from 12 countries, go against WTO principles that say all countries should generally be treated equally.
The deal applies to India's rival Pakistan as well as to 11 countries in Latin America - all considered to be major producers of drug crops like coca and opium that find their way into the EU.
Brussels had argued that its measures reduce the supply of illegal narcotics into the European Union while at the same time aiding the development of poor nations.
But India claimed the selection process was "arbitrary," pointing to the fact that Myanmar, Thailand and other major drug producers are excluded. It also could not understand why India was left out while neighboring Pakistan was included.
The arbitrator, Australian lawyer John Lockhart, ruled that the EU would have enough time to change its rules by next July. He estimated that the European Commission could adopt a proposal by October, it would be studied by the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee and that ministers could adopt a regulation before next May.
The WTO hasn't suggested what the EU should do to make its regulation legal. In principle it could meet WTO requirements either by ending the program or by extending it to other countries.