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EU Suspends Taxes, Customs Duties on Medical Equipment

FILE - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a news conference, detailing EU efforts to limit the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, at EU headquarters in Brussels, April 2, 2020.

The European Commission said Friday that it was temporarily suspending taxes and duties on the import of medical equipment and protective wear from outside the European Union.

In a video statement, Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen said the commission recognized the needs of hospitals and health care workers and was making the move to ease pressure on prices for crucial equipment.

She gave the example of Italy, where customs duties of 12 percent and a value-added tax of 22 percent are levied on some face masks or protective garments imported from countries like China. The new cuts would lower prices by one-third.

Likewise, she said, an average 20 percent VAT on ventilators would be removed.

She said the tax and duty cuts would be applied retroactively to January 30 and be in place at least four months, longer if necessary.