The leaders of APEC 21 economies gathering in Vladivostok over the weekend made good progress toward promoting growth and innovation around the world. For the tech industry, a big boost came with the inclusion of this pearl in the 2012 Leaders’ Declaration:
"We welcome the ongoing work to expand the product coverage and membership of the WTO Information Technology Agreement (ITA) and instruct our officials to work in earnest in order to swiftly achieve a good outcome of the negotiations."
APEC has long been a supporter of the ITA. In fact, without the big show of APEC support for the ITA 15 years ago, the agreement may never have been born. By eliminating tariffs on a broad swath of tech goods, that agreement has helped drive innovation, accelerate productivity, increase employment, lower consumer prices, and bridge communities across the globe in ways unimagined 15 years ago when agreement was forged. Yet, the ITA has not had a single product added to it since it was established even though the tech sector is bursting with innovation and growth.
The APEC Ministers earlier last week laid the groundwork for the leaders’ statement on the ITA, highlighting the importance of an expanded agreement and reaffirming the bold call to action:
"We welcome the ongoing work of negotiations to expand the product coverage and membership of the WTO Information Technology Agreement (ITA). A successful expansion of the ITA would provide a much-needed boost to the global economy and contribute to APEC's core mission to open markets and facilitate regional trade. We, therefore, instruct our officials to work in earnest in order to swiftly achieve a good outcome of the negotiations. We also welcome new members that recently joined the ITA, and call on all APEC economies to join the agreement."
We are moving into a critical phase in the negotiations to expand the ITA. ITA members in Geneva have begun discussions in earnest on the initiative and developed an impressive initial product list to be considered for additional ITA coverage. This vote of support from the APEC economies will do much to give even greater momentum to the effort, which will expand trade, stimulate growth, increase jobs, spur innovation, and promote prosperity around the world. Hats off to APEC.