Reporting on behalf of the ITA Expansion group to the WTO’s ITA Committee, Canada said it was pleased to note that 18 of the 24 participants in the expanded ITA have now submitted modified tariff schedules and that others were on track to do so. In summary, implementation of the agreement is well advanced, with participants on track to secure full implementation in the near future.
The agreement received a major boost on 26 October 2016 when China submitted its ITA expansion commitments to WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo for inclusion in its WTO schedule of concessions. China’s commitments were ratified by the country’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on 3 September 2016, and China started implementing its first tariff cuts on covered goods from 15 September 2016.
Canada said it was also pleased to report that Macao, China, has initiated the process to join the expanded ITA and that it was currently working on its draft schedule. Other WTO members have expressed an interest in joining the expanded ITA in the near future, Canada said.
The expansion of the ITA, agreed at the Nairobi Ministerial Conference in December 2015, eliminates tariffs on products valued at over $1.3 trillion in annual trade. These are in addition to the products covered under the original ITA concluded in December 1996, which accounted for an estimated $1.6 trillion in global trade in 2013.
The expanded ITA was concluded by 24 participants representing 53 WTO members, but the benefits are being extended to all 164 WTO members, meaning they will all enjoy duty-free access to the markets of the members eliminating tariffs on these products.
The new deal provides for the elimination of import tariffs and other duties and charges on an additional 201 new-generation information and communication technology products either immediately or progressively over three years. By 2019, it is estimated that 95.4 per cent of participants’ import duties on these products will be fully eliminated, with tariffs remaining on a small range of products to be completely removed by 2021 or 2023 at the latest.
Symposium to mark 20th anniversary of ITA
Participants to the 1996 ITA agreed on 1 November to hold a special symposium on 10-11 May 2017 to mark the 20th anniversary of the original ITA.
The chair of the committee, Ms. Zsofia Tvarusko (Hungary), said she has already started consulting with delegations on the format, structure and themes for the symposium and would continue the consultations in the coming weeks. A number of delegations expressed their support for the idea, although some stressed the need to make the symposium balanced by highlighting the concerns of developing countries.
Several WTO members welcomed the discussions that have taken place as part of the committee’s work programme on non-tariff barriers (NTBs). Switzerland noted the discussions focused on several issues — test results, supplier conformity declarations, transparency, and electronic labeling — and said it was prepared to work for outcomes in this area. The European Union said it was encouraged by the contribution of industry groups in the EU, the United States and Japan to the discussions. Japan, the United States, Hong Kong China, Singapore, Korea, Chinese Taipei and Norway also expressed interest in continuing the NTB discussions. China noted that it engaged in the discussion but that the matter needed further review domestically, while India and Egypt expressed concerns about discussing issues that were already being raised in other committees and negotiating groups.
The European Union, Japan, Korea and the United States asked India to clarify its decision to re-impose duties of 10 per cent on four categories of telecommunications products, which they said should be subject to zero duties under the ITA. Since first raising the issue in April (G/IT/W/42), India has not responded to questions posed about the decision, the four said. Canada, Chinese Taipei, Australia, Singapore, Thailand and Norway also said they had interests in the matter and looked forward to India’s reply.
India said the customs classification of the products was still being discussed internally, but that the main issue was tariff bindings. On this, India maintains that the products in question are not covered by the ITA. Products and technologies have evolved since the conclusion of the ITA and India, which is not a party to the expanded ITA, does not intend to take commitments on goods that were not conceived at the time the original agreement was concluded, it said.