[A2k] Bloomberg Business on the WTO's Information Technology Agreement: Deal Could Cut Tariffs on $1 Trillion in Tech Trade

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Sat Jul 18 18:58:59 PDT 2015


Deal Could Cut Tariffs on $1 Trillion in Tech Trade

by Ros Krasny
July 18, 2015 — 9:13 PM CEST
Updated on July 19, 2015 — 3:03 AM CEST

Trade negotiators tentatively agreed on Saturday to eliminate tariffs
on an array of technology products valued at $1 trillion worth of
global commerce.

The breakthrough toward the World Trade Organization’s Information
Technology Agreement took place at an ambassadors’ meeting at the
European Union embassy in Geneva.

“Very optimistic that we’ll have a final successful deal by the end of
next week,” Roberto Azevedo, director-general of the WTO, said on
Twitter. “We have the basis for an agreement.”

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office hailed a “major breakthrough”
in what would be the first significant tariff-cutting deal at the WTO
in 18 years.

“This will open overseas markets for some of America’s most
competitive companies and workers,” USTR Michael Froman said in an
e-mailed statement. “We are confident that all parties will now give
formal approval to their participation in what would be the first
tariff-elimination deal at the WTO in 18 years.”

In talks that started on July 14, members took on the question of
various tariffs, notably on LCD screens, which were contested by
Taiwan and China, and an EU request concerning car radios. South
Korean negotiators withdrew their opposition to an extended agreement,
and members agreed to consider a draft list of covered products.

Tariffs on semiconductors, magnetic resonance imaging machines, global
positioning system devices, printer ink cartridges, video game
consoles and other products would be cut to zero under the deal,
according to the USTR office.

‘Final Approval’

The expanded product list will now undergo consideration from trade
ministers at their various capitals.

“We have the basis for an understanding,” Azevedo told Bloomberg BNA
in Geneva after the meeting. “The list is out, members are going to
consult their capitals, and we will know by Friday whether we have
final approval on the list of products and the declaration itself.”

The product list could pave the way for a finalized deal that would
contribute as much as $190 billion to the global gross domestic
product and support 60,000 U.S. jobs.

Technology manufacturers like Intel Corp., Samsung Electronics Co.,
Sandisk Corp. and Texas Instruments Inc. stand to benefit from the
elimination of tariffs on some 250 products.

The 80 WTO countries that participate in the ITA talks account for
about 97 percent of global trade in IT products.

Staging Schedules

The ITA requires participants to eliminate import tariffs on
technology products on a most-favored-nation basis, meaning that any
duty-free terms are applied to all WTO members.

In September, ITA negotiators will start talks on schedules of
concessions for tariff reductions, also known as staging. That allows
countries to gradually phase in the tariff reductions for certain
products deemed too sensitive for the ITA’s various signatories.

Negotiators will also hold technical negotiations with the goal of
completing the agreement by the WTO Ministerial Conference scheduled
for Dec. 15-18 in Nairobi, Kenya.

U.S. technology industry officials are hopeful the deal could enter
into force as soon as July 2016.

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