BRUSSELS (Feb. 5)
The European Community has refused Israel’s request to temporarily extend a sales tax on textiles and leather goods it imports from E.C. countries.
The request was made by the Israeli minister of industry and trade, Ariel Sharon, who visited E.C. headquarters here last week.
His talks were mainly with Abel Matutes of Spain, the newly appointed E.C. Commissioner for Mediterranean policy and external relations.
Sharon also met with Belgian Foreign Minister Leo Tindemans during his two-day visit.
The E.C. says the tax is discriminatory because it is higher than the sales tax applied to the same products manufactured in Israel.
According to an E.C. spokesman, it should have been eliminated on Jan. I when the Israel-E.C. free trade agreement on industrial exports took effect.
Israel was given until 1992 to gradually modify and then abolish the tax.
But Sharon asked to extend the transition period to 1995 because the leather and textile imports were hurting development towns such as Beit She’an and Dimona, where there is no other industrial activity.
He also noted that the giant Ata textile mills went into bankruptcy and shut down last year, a symptom of the economic troubles plaguing Israel.
The E.C. commissioners promised to report Israel’s request to the E.C. Council of Ministers, but a spokesman said it was doubtful that the position would be changed.