A recent ruling by the UK's customs and tax department could pave the way for US-made high-end women's denim jeans to avoid a tariff hike imposed by the European Union (EU) earlier this year.

The 200% hike saw tariffs on women's or girls' cotton denim trousers jump from 12% to 38% from 1 May.

However, the EU has now conceded that while the jeans in question are made of denim as the term is used in the apparel industry, they fall under a tariff provision not covered by the increased tax.

The legal argument was crafted by Elise Shibles, an attorney at international trade law firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, on behalf of Los Angeles-based Hudson Clothing LLC.

Shibles proposed that the jeans are properly classified under the tariff provision for cotton women's trousers other than denim and corduroy - which is only subject to the basic 12% tariff.

In addition, importers that have been paying the higher 38% duty on these jeans since it took effect 1 May could be able to secure refunds.

The ruling applies to all 28 EU member states, which will be required to accept the alternative classification of the jeans.

The UK's ruling is currently only binding to Hudson Clothing and women's jeans of chief weight cotton, 3-thread or 4-thread warp faced twill made of true indigo fugitive (not colourfast) dye in the warp and filling yarns unbleached, bleached, dyed grey or coloured a lighter shade of the colour of the warp yarns.

However, it also offers advisory guidance for other US producers of jeans adversely affected by the EU tariff.

The duty rate hike on jeans and other US exports was authorised by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in retaliation for US failure to fully comply with a ruling against the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act of 2000.

Commonly referred to as the Byrd Amendment, this law allowed American companies who complain about unfairly traded goods to receive payment from the additional duties collected by the US.

The law was found to be a violation of WTO rules and, despite a repeal, its effects were allowed to continue. As a result, the WTO allows other countries to raise tariffs on goods imported from the US up to a certain amount, which varies each year.