The symposium underlined that the ITA brings benefits for developing countries as it facilitates their access to supply chains and helps them address challenges resulting from lack of digital infrastructure. At the same time, within and across regions and countries, there are still important digital divides and gender inequalities.

Participants noted that the ITA has helped encourage trade in ICT products. In 2020, exports of products covered under the ITA and ITA Expansion grew more than total merchandise exports. The panellists explained that the ITA spurs economic growth, in particular by boosting productivity and innovation, supporting ICT services sectors and exports, and stimulating participation in ICT global value chains. ICT products are indispensable in areas such as optimization of energy consumption and energy-saving equipment, smart healthcare, e-learning and addressing food shortages. They contribute to meeting all of the UN's sustainable development goals.

In her opening remarks, WTO Director-General Okonjo-Iweala emphasized that the ITA has helped reduce costs and increase productive efficiency for these products.

She stressed the importance of bridging the digital divide among developing and developed countries. She said: “Joining the ITA, on its own, cannot bridge the existing digital gaps, or address power supply problems. However, it can help countries prepare the ground for the digital era. Predictability in eliminating market access barriers, with commitments clearly anchored in the ITA, can encourage foreign investment. But there is also scope for the international community, donors, and multinational corporations to do more to help low-income countries establish basic IT infrastructure so that no country gets left behind.”

She stressed that “the WTO is about people. The ITA is proof of this: it has increased people's purchasing power, created jobs, and enhanced access to new technologies.” She encouraged business leaders, policy makers and negotiators to use this opportunity to work together for the future of the ITA.

Ambassador Michael Punke, delivering his keynote address, said that “by lowering costs and expanding access, you are democratizing technology. Furthermore, the ability for anyone to access and use cutting edge technologies generated tremendous multiplier effects across the economy.”

Participating experts also emphasized that trade in ICT products was boosted during the COVID-19 pandemic by an increase in remote working and the need for ITA tools. It was highlighted that COVID-19 has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world and that the changes made now will have lasting effects as the world economy begins to recover. Medical technology in particular is critically connected to trade and ICT. Therefore, countries' participation in innovation for building sustainable and resilient healthcare systems is crucial.

It was noted during the symposium that all regions tremendously expanded their trade in products covered by the ITA between 1996 and 2020. Asia, for example, was the main ITA trader in 2020, accounting for almost 2.8 trillion dollars and representing 69% of world ITA exports, and 56% for imports. This highlighted the role of the region as an IT inputs provider to supply chains and high technology goods across the world.

The symposium also heard a call from various academics and industry representatives for an expansion in the list of products covered by the ITA, taking into account the rapid speed of change within the sector. Speakers also stressed the need to address such non-tariff barriers as technical standards, e-labelling and licensing. They also highlighted the benefits that would result from increasing the number of participants in the Agreement.

The role of ITA products in finding solutions to climate and environmental challenges was also underscored.

In closing, Deputy Director-General Anabel González affirmed: “Looking back over the past 25 years, the ITA is one area where the government-business dialogue and cooperation has been highly successful and fruitful. I trust that the ITA Committee will pick up the signals on its radar.”

More information on the symposium can be found here.

Committee meeting

Participants in the WTO’s ITA met on 17 September to discuss implementation issues related to the ITA and heard an update from Lao PDR.

Progress made on Lao PDR's participation in the ITA

Lao updated the Committee on its work to join the ITA and ITA Expansion Agreement. It hoped to be able to conclude the process by the WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference scheduled to take place on 30 November — 3 December. Members welcomed positive progress made in bilateral discussions and looked forward to Lao PDR's early participation in the ITA and ITA Expansion.

Once approved, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic will be the first least developed country to accede to both the ITA and ITA Expansion.

The Committee also considered other subjects, including divergences in classification of IT products, a non-tariff measures work programme and trade concerns. In addition, the Committee reviewed and approved its Draft Annual Report (2021) to the Council for Trade in Goods.


The Information Technology Agreement (ITA) was concluded by 14 participants at the Singapore Ministerial Conference in December 1996. Since then, the number of participants has grown to 53, representing 82 WTO members which account for 97 per cent of world trade in IT products. The participants are committed to eliminating tariffs on IT products covered by the Agreement.

The ITA covers a large number of high-technology products, including computers, telecommunication equipment, semiconductors, semiconductor manufacturing and testing equipment, software and scientific instruments as well as most of the parts and accessories of these products.

At the Nairobi Ministerial Conference in December 2015, 24 participants concluded an ITA Expansion Agreement, which now has 26 participants, representing 55 WTO members and covering approximately 90 per cent of world trade in products covered by the ITA expansion.

The ITA Expansion Agreement covers many new ICT products, including new-generation semi-conductors, semi-conductor manufacturing equipment, optical lenses, GPS navigation equipment and many types of medical equipment, such as scanners and machines for magnetic resonance imaging, tomography, dental care and ophthalmology.

In 2016, world exports of both ITA and ITA expansion products totalled more than 20 per cent of global exports of manufactured products.




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