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WTO NEWS: 1998 NEWS ITEMS

27 November 1998
Final ITA II package to be considered on 11 December

The Committee of Participants on the Expansion of Trade in Information Technology Products (ITA Committee) agreed, on 20 November, to meet on 11 December 1998 to decide on a final package of additional products for tariff elimination (ITA II).

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The Chairman, Mr. Martin Harvey (New Zealand), presented to participants the following for consideration in the capitals and consultations with domestic industry:
  • A list of some 200 ITA II products proposed by a group of countries;

  • A revised ITA II draft agreement providing for tariff elimination in four equal steps beginning on 1 July 1999 with complete elimination of customs duties by 1 January 2002, recognizing that extended staging of reductions to no later than 1 January 2007 may be necessary in limited circumstances; and

  • A list of some 20 products to be annexed to the draft agreement, whose coverage under the ITA would be confirmed.

Mr. Harvey said that his consultations had indicated that many participants believe that the progress made in the ITA II negotiations, especially in intensive bilateral and plurilateral negotiations held during the week, should not be lost.

He said that the proposed ITA II package is "a modest but valuable package through which we can still move the WTO work forward and score a minor victory for the multilateral trading system that would be important against the background of the financial crisis".

India expressed concern about the inclusion of products that it had objected to in the past: radar, navigation equipment and satellite components. It stressed that any decision on a final list should be through consensus. India added that it was not getting full ITA benefits because of lack of technology transfer in the IT sector.

Malaysia said that the products it had requested were not on the proposed list, and that it could not agree to an ITA II package that left out these products.

With respect to the December meeting, the Philippines said that domestic procedures would not allow it to make a speedy decision on the ITA II package.

The WTO Ministerial Declaration on Trade in Information Technology Products (ITA) was agreed at the first WTO Ministerial Conference held in December 1996 in Singapore. It provides for participants to eliminate customs duties and other duties and charges on information technology products (contained in the annexes) by the year 2000, on an m.f.n. basis (applied to all WTO members). The ITA also provided an opportunity for participants to expand the agreement's product coverage (ITA II) through negotiations. Last February, the Committee started considering proposals in this regard from 14 participants. There are currently 44 participants to the ITA, which together account for 93 per cent of world trade in information technology products.