INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AGREEMENT
Lao PDR informed the participants on 25 June of its intention to accede to the original ITA concluded in 1996 as well as the ITA Expansion concluded in 2015. At the same time, it submitted draft schedules for removing tariffs on the high-tech products covered by the two agreements.
Santisouk Phounesavath, Deputy Director-General at the Lao PDR Ministry of Industry and Commerce, said that acceding to the ITA and ITA Expansion would help attract foreign investment and support the integration of Lao PDR into global value chains, spurring economic efficiency and productivity and boosting the country's development potential.
Lao PDR is proposing to eliminate tariffs on the majority of products covered by the agreements from its date of accession while removing tariffs on a limited number of products over a transition period. Mr Phounesavath noted that Lao PDR is the first least developed country to seek accession to the ITA and ITA Expansion and requested understanding from members in terms of the development challenges it faces as well as ongoing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ITA Committee will meet again on 17 September and review progress in the accession talks. Mr Phounesavath welcomed the constructive engagement so far and expressed hope that sufficient progress would be made in the weeks ahead so that Lao PDR could conclude the negotiations and formally join the ITA and the ITA Expansion by the time of the WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference at the end of the year.
Ms Uma Muniandy (Singapore), chair of the ITA Committee, said it was her hope that Lao PDR's ITA tariff schedule can be approved at the next committee meeting. Mr Christopher O’Toole (Canada), chair of the ITA Expansion Group, encouraged active engagement by participants with Lao PDR to speed up the process.
The original 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. The ITA now covers 82 WTO members, which account for approximately 97 per cent of world trade in information technology products and approximately 10 per cent of global merchandise exports.
In December 2015, some ITA participants concluded the negotiations on an expansion of the 1996 ITA, which included an additional 201 products valued at over $1.3 trillion of trade per year. More than 50 WTO members are participants in the ITA Expansion, which accounts for over 7 per cent of total global trade.
More information on the ITA is available here.