ITI is excited to see momentum building around expansion of the most important trade agreement for the tech industry, the Information Technology Agreement (ITA). Just this week, members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation reaffirmed their commitment to play a key role as the World Trade Organization (WTO) works to expand the ITA.
Last month, WTO members met in Geneva to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the ITA and took significant steps toward ensuring that it continues to be one of the most successful trade agreements to date. The agreement was launched in 1997 and eliminated tariffs on a long list of information and communications technology (ICT) products. The initial 29 signatories had the foresight to recognize the role ICT plays in driving productivity and economic growth and development. Now the current 74 signatories have agreed to take up the long and overdue task of expanding the agreement to reflect the shifting ICT landscape and cover new products.
ICT is the global economy’s strongest driver of productivity, innovation, and ultimately economic growth. Its impact on the global economy becomes apparent when considering that in 2008 alone, the t trade in these products reached $4 trillion. The industry is also responsible for about 6 percent of global gross domestic product, and recent studies indicate ICT-related industries employ almost 6 percent of the workforce in OECD economies. Yet, even with these astounding figures there is room for growth. Expanding the current agreement to cover additional ICT products, the ITA would provide immediate benefits to the United States. The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation estimates that an additional $800 billion in ICT products would be covered with expanded product coverage, a 20 percent increase over the $4 trillion covered now. Their report also expects that U.S. exports of these products would increase by $2.8 billion, and create about 60,000 new jobs here at home.
At a time when economic growth remains sluggish both at home and abroad, both presidential candidates must press to eliminate trade barriers. ICT products have become the lifeblood of the 21st century economy, and it is imperative that candidates find ways to foster ICT growth. Access to open markets will create a level playing field for U.S. companies, increasing the likelihood of continued innovation and job creation.
Geoff Lane is a Government Relations Associate at ITI.