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Remember the Information Technology Agreement? For several years, 50 or so countries have been negotiating a deal to cut tariffs on information and communications technology (ICT) products under the aegis of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
An agreement had seemed within reach late last year, and then the talks stalled over a disagreement between China and Korea over a handful of tariff lines. But perhaps there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
The WTO’s Information Technology Agreement (ITA) was concluded in 1996, and it has delivered a cornucopia of innovative products to the world. The signatories to this agreement today account for 97% of world trade in ICT products.
However, an incredible variety of new tech products have been created since the ITA was framed two decades ago. So for the past several years negotiators have been seeking to expand the agreement’s coverage.
Now word comes from Geneva that a new — and hopefully final — round of negotiations has been scheduled for the week of July 13. The parties have narrowed their disagreement, and success could be within reach.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative reports that more than 200 tariff lines will be reduced to zero under an expanded ITA: “Medical equipment, GPS devices, video game consoles, computer software and next generation semiconductors are among the high-tech products that will see tariff elimination.”
Approximately $1 trillion worth of tech goods would be traded duty-free under the ITA expansion, a sum greater than global trade in automobiles and three times greater than trade in clothing, according to the WTO.
The Chamber has worked over the past three years to build support for an ambitious expansion of the ITA. Chamber delegations traveled to Geneva repeatedly to meet with negotiators from dozens of countries, and we’ve raised it as an issue in missions to foreign capitals.
The Chamber was one of more than 80 top business groups from dozens of developed and developing countries that has just reissued a statement calling for action.
With slow growth and financial uncertainty impacting markets from Europe to China, the world economy could use a shot in the arm. Expanding the ITA could be just what the doctor ordered.