WTO to hear South Korea complaint over US washer tarrifs

GENEVA (AFP) - The WTO has been called in to settle a dispute between South Korea and the United States over duties the latter imposes on imported washing machines, trade sources said Thursday.

The Geneva-based body, which polices respect for global trade accords in an effort to offer its 159 member economies a level playing field, set up a dispute settlement panel to rule on the issue.

World Trade Organization rules allow member economies to slap duties on products which are "dumped", or sold at cut prices in order to grab market share, to the detriment of domestic industries.

But to impose punitive tariffs, solid proof is required that dumping practices are taking place.

WTO members spar frequently over what constitutes a legitimate response to dumping and what counts as protectionism.

Disputes at the WTO are often extremely technical and can last for several years amid appeals and assessments of compliance with its rulings.

The WTO's disputes settlement body - made up of independent trade and legal experts - has the power to authorise retaliatory trade measures against a country found at fault and which fails to fall into line.