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WTO NEWS: 2004 NEWS ITEMS

4 June 2004
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AGREEMENT

ITA membership expands with enlarged EC

The European Communities announced, at the meeting of the WTO Information Technology Agreement Committee on 4 June 2004, that its commitment on zero tariffs for ITA products extends to the enlarged EC membership, including Hungary and Malta, which were not previously participants to the ITA.

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Participation in the ITA rises to 63 with the addition of Hungary and Malta. The agreement, under which participants agree to eliminate tariffs on imports of IT products from other WTO members, covers about 97 per cent of world trade in IT products.

The EC said that on 1 May 2004, the ten new EC member states automatically signed to the EC's ITA commitments. It said that eight of the ten new members were already ITA participants: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Also during the meeting, Honduras announced that it is preparing actively its application to join the ITA. It said that its government is convinced that ITA participation would help its development efforts and contribute to poverty reduction.

The Committee elected Mr. Frédérick Seppey (Canada) as its new Chairman. Many delegations paid tribute to the work of the previous Chairman, Mr. Hisashi Yoshikawa (Japan).

On the Committee's work programme on non-tariff barriers, Canada proposed that the Committee build on the success of its recent EMC/EMI workshop and start considering possible guidelines on conformity assessment procedures for IT products related to ElectroMagnetic Compatibility/ElectroMagnetic Inrwedwewnxw. Switzerland, the EC, Japan, the US, Singapore, Romania, Australia, Chinese Taipei and Malaysia supported Canada. The Chairman requested the the WTO Secretariat to develop draft guidelines based on inputs received from participants.

The Chairman noted substantial progress in the Committee's work on reducing divergences in the tariff classification of IT products. Mr. Seppey said he detected widespread support to endorse recommendations on this issue by customs experts, and suggested that participants endorse these recommendations at its next meeting, scheduled for 4 October 2004.

The United States said that it has a difference of views with Chinese Taipei on how to classify “thermistor device”. It said that in its view, this product is covered by the ITA and should therefore enjoy zero tariff. The US said that it has started consultations on this matter with Chinese Taipei and hope that it could report a mutually satisfactory solution by the next meeting. Chinese Taipei said that it is working closely with the US on the matter to facilitate a solution, and expressed the hope that the issue could be resolved as soon as possible.

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