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WTO NEWS: 1998 PRESS RELEASES

PRESS/110
17 July 1998  

ITA II talks suspended  

Participants have today, 17 July, agreed to suspend negotiations on extending the product coverage of the WTO information technology agreement. The Chairman of the ITA Committee, Mr. Martin Harvey (Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand), will be consulting with delegation in September on the resumption of the negotiations.

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“After two days of gruelling negotiations and discussions, there has been some movement and some welcome breakthroughs in some quarters”, Mr. Harvey told the Committee. “Unfortunately, the various interests and sensitivities of participants have not allowed a consensus to be reached on a package of products.”

He added that “among a core of countries, I believe there is the makings of a package but certain key obstacles must be removed in our path--I hope these can be overcome”.

The Chairman said that his consultations with delegations “reveal that there is still a determination to try to resolve outstanding differences. Therefore I propose that I suspend these negotiations today as delegations need more time to reflect on their positions and the possibilities on the table, and to reflect on some creative solutions to this impasse”.

He said that he intended to consult with delegations before the end of September “to determine whether there is still the possibility of reaching agreement on a final package”.

Mr. Harvey stressed the need for “a willingness to work for a solution and indications of the flexibility and creativity needed for a solution”". He expressed the hope that “we can maintain the cooperative atmosphere so that we give this negotiations the best chance of success”.

Note to Editors:

The WTO Ministerial Declaration on Trade in Information Technology Products (ITA) was agreed at the close of the Singapore Ministerial Conference on 13 December 1996. It provides for participants to eliminate customs duties and other duties and charges on information technology products by the year 2000 on an m.f.n. basis (applied to all WTO members).

The ITA participants, in February 1998, began considering proposals for expanding the product coverage of the agreement (ITA II). The 44 participants account for more than 93 per cent of world trade in IT products.