The WTO’s Information Technology Agreement (ITA)

The ITA provides for participants to completely eliminate duties on information technology (IT) products covered by the Agreement. There are currently 74 participants — representing 97 per cent of world trade in IT products. The ITA, negotiated during the first WTO Ministerial Conference in Singapore, celebrates its 15th anniversary this year.

ITA participants: Australia; Bahrain; Canada; China; Colombia; Costa Rica; Dominican Republic; Egypt; El Salvador; European Union; Georgia; Guatemala; Honduras; Hong Kong, China; Iceland; India; Indonesia; Israel; Japan; Jordan; Korea, Rep. of; Kuwait; Kyrgyz Republic; Macao, China; Malaysia; Mauritius; Moldova; Morocco; New Zealand; Nicaragua; Norway; Oman; Panama; Peru; Philippines; Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of; Singapore; Switzerland; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; Turkey; United Arab Emirates; United States; and Viet Nam. Recently-acceded Montenegro and the Russian Federation, whose accession is awaiting ratification, are expected to join soon. WTO members that have not joined the ITA include Mexico, Brazil, Tunisia, South Africa, Argentina and Chile.

Main product categories covered by the ITA: computers, semiconductors, semiconductor manufacturing equipment, telecommunication apparatus, instruments and apparatus, data-storage media and software, and parts and accessories.

Trade in IT products: World exports of IT products almost tripled in value between 1996 and 2010.

With an annual average growth rate of 7 per cent over this period, global exports of IT products reached US$ 1.4 trillion in 2010, becoming one of the most important product categories in world trade. Exports of IT products accounted for 9.5 per cent of global merchandise exports in 2010, exceeding the share of both agricultural (9.2 per cent) and automotive products (7.4 per cent).  As a result of the increased reliance on global production networks, the largest exporters of IT products are also the largest importers of these products. Trade patterns have changed considerably over the past 15 years in terms of main traders and products. Developing countries have consistently increased their participation in global trade of IT products, increasing from approximately 31 per cent of exports and 27 per cent of imports in 1996 to approximately 64 per cent of exports and 51 per cent of imports in 2010.

Leading Exporters of IT Products,
2010 (US$ bn)

Leading Importers of IT Products,
2010 (US$ bn)

1. China


1. European Union


2. European Union


2. China


3. United States


3. United States


4. Singapore


4. Singapore


5. Chinese Taipei


5. Japan


6. Korea, Rep. of


6. Chinese Taipei


7. Japan


7. Mexico*


8. Malaysia


8. Korea, Rep. of


9. Mexico*


9. Malaysia


10. Thailand


10. Thailand


*Not an ITA participant.

The ITA Committee was established to oversee the implementation of the ITA, including to review the product coverage, consult on non-tariff barriers, (NTBs), consider classification divergences and serve as a forum to work out disagreements between participants. The Committee’s on-going Work Programme on Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) has so far resulted in guidelines on conformity assessment procedures on electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and electromagnetic interference (EMI) of information technology (IT) products. In October 2011, the EU told the Committee it would refocus its efforts on a sectoral agreement on IT products from the Doha Round to the ITA Committee. In May this year, Canada, Japan, Korea, Chinese Taipei, Singapore and the US submitted a joint paper calling for negotiations to expand the product coverage and membership of the ITA. Current chair: Mr Zahari MD ALI (Malaysia). 11.05.2012