Exporting nations to waive duties on 200 IT products

Nations exporting IT products have agreed to waive tariffs on about 200 of them, the World Trade Organisation said on Saturday.

“In all, 54 World Trade Organisation (WTO) members agreed to eliminate tariffs on 201 IT products, whose combined value is $1.3 trillion and accounts for seven percent of the global trade,” the WTO said in a statement here.

“Today’s agreement is a landmark,” said WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo.

“Annual trade in these 201 products is valued at over $1.3 trillion per year, and accounts for approximately 7 percent of total global trade today. This is larger than global trade in automotive products – or trade in textiles, clothing, iron and steel combined,” he added.

Products include new generation semi-conductors (chips), GPS navigation, medical equipment, as well as machine tools for manufacturing printed circuits, telecommunications satellites and touch screens.
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“Eliminating tariffs will have a huge impact on prices in other sectors where IT products are used as inputs, create jobs and help boost GDP growth the world over,” Azevedo said after members agreed to implement the accord on Friday.

Under the terms of the agreement, the majority of tariffs will be eliminated on these products within three years, with reductions beginning in 2016.

By the end of October 2015, each of the participating members will submit to the others a draft schedule which spells out how the terms of the agreement would be met. Participants will spend the coming months preparing and verifying these schedules.

“Exporting members will submit a draft schedule on the terms to other members in October and ahead of the next ministerial conference at Nairobi in Kenya in December,” Azevedo added.

Claiming it to be the first of its kind at the trade body in 18 years, Azevedo said the deal was struck just two years after members agreed to the historic package to lower trade barriers at Bali in Indonesia in December 2013.

“We have shown multilateral trading system can deliver real economic results, as evident from the two deals in two years,” Azevedo asserted on the occasion.

Asserting that all the 161 members of the trade body would benefit from the deal, as they would enjoy duty-free market access in markets, Azevedo said its terms would be circulated at the WTO general council meeting on July 28.

The deal also envisages removing non-tariff barriers in the IT sector and to keep a list of products covered under review to determine expansion in future.

The latest deal is an expansion of the 1996 IT agreement by 81 members.

When members recognised that technological innovation had advanced so much that many of the new IT products were not covered under the 1996 pact, they began negotiations in 2012 for expanding the list.