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Global Industry Says Finish the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) Expansion – Now

Global industry has weighed in today with a strong statement of support for bringing the negotiations to expand product coverage of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) to a conclusion before the leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies meet in Beijing on November 10-11.  The ITA is a World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement that eliminates tariffs on tech products but it has not been updated to keep pace with innovation in nearly two decades.

Representing tens of thousands of businesses spanning the globe, the 82 signatories on this statement remind us that APEC played a significant role in establishing the ITA in the mid 1990’s.  They add that “APEC economies can again play a decisive role in the future of the ITA by driving the effort to conclude these negotiations in time for the APEC leaders to celebrate what would represent an historic achievement for global trade when they meet in Beijing.”

ITA negotiations in Geneva became deadlocked last November when all the negotiating parties could not agree on a final list of products to be added to the existing ITA during a convening that everyone anticipated would be the concluding round of talks.  

While formal negotiations in Geneva have gone quiet, ITA expansion remains top of mind in global trade circles.  When APEC’s trade ministers met in May in Qingdao, China, they pressed for the negotiations to “move towards a commercially significant and balanced conclusion in the shortest timeframe possible.”  Then in August in Myanmar, ASEAN’s economic ministers gave a boost to ITA expansion by underscoring the importance of the negotiations, calling again for a significant, balanced, and swift conclusion.

As host to APEC this year, China will likely want to trumpet noteworthy trade deliverables when the leaders meet in Beijing this November.  And China should want to reaffirm its support for the WTO.  ITA expansion stands out as the most likely—and most significant—among the potential trade deliverables. 

For global industry, the emerging view is the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in November can only be considered a success if ITA expansion is completed by then.  The clock is ticking, though, with the APEC meeting now only a few short weeks away.

It is our strong hope that all the APEC leaders will view this as an opportunity to exercise leadership and double down on their commitment to the future of the WTO.  A successful and ambitious ITA expansion outcome will give a significant boost to the global economy and do much to help restore confidence in the multilateral trading system.  With the Trade Facilitation Agreement still on the skids, the WTO needs a trade ‘win’ now more than ever.  We all do.

Public Policy Tags: Trade & Investment