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Europe cuts duty-free bargains

Some of the glittering, luxurious, and enticing duty-free bargains in the shops of Amsterdam's Schipol, London's Heathrow, Dublin's Shannon, and other European international airports may soon lose their duty-free status.

The European Community Commission recently announced it will seek a member-nation agreement to impose normal EC customs duties in duty-free shops on all goods that have originated outside the EC.

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The action came as a result of a European Court of Justice decision last year. The decision abolished duty-free sales by March 31 of this year on out-and-back West German ''butter ships.'' For some time, shopping cruises into international waters have been offered out of north German ports on ships specifically loaded with foodstuffs for sale. Once outside territorial waters, passengers made favorable low-cost purchases because of the elimination of customs duties.

Whenever the proposed change takes place in duty-free shops of the EC, it could raise prices on things like calculators from the United States, Japanese cameras, Russian watches, Oriental rugs, and Asian fashion apparel as much as 10 percent or more.

Some non-EC goods might not be greatly affected by the decision. Certain categories of imports are admitted into the EC without assessment of customs duties but with the imposition of national excise taxes. And up to now these taxes are not figured in the proposed change.

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