A major duty hike levied by the European Union (EU) last year against imports of premium US-made women's jeans has been rescinded - and may pave the way for US jeans makers to secure refunds.   

The EU tariff will drop from 38% to 12.35% from 1 May, all but erasing an extra 26% charge imposed as part of an ongoing trade dispute between Washington and Brussels.

The tariff hike was authorised by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in retaliation against the US's continued distribution of antidumping duties collected on foreign-made goods to affected US producers.

The US law prescribing that system (the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act, more familiarly known as the Byrd Amendment) was repealed years ago, but duties already collected are still being handed out as requisite legal or administrative procedures are concluded.

When distributions spiked in 2012, so did the value of US exports the EU could target, prompting Brussels to add women's jeans to the retaliation list.

The distribution amount for 2013, however, fell by about half, prompting the EU to lower its additional tariffs on women's jeans and other affected goods.

Customs and international trade law firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg has been working to obtain relief for affected US manufacturers.

For example, the UK's customs and tax department accepted a legal argument crafted by ST&R attorney Elise Shibles that certain jeans do not fall within the legal definition of denim with the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (and are thus not subject to the higher duties) because the dye used to make them is not colourfast.

The other 27 EU member states appear to be accepting this ruling and the alternative classification of the subject jeans as women's pants, which is only subject to the basic 12% tariff.

Shibles has since been helping US jeans makers that had been paying the higher 38% duty to secure refunds.