World Economy

WTO Seals Trillion-Dollar IT Trade Deal

WTO Seals Trillion-Dollar IT Trade DealWTO Seals Trillion-Dollar IT Trade Deal

World Trade Organization members have finalized a deal to cut tariffs on a wide range of information technology products. Economists said the impact of the accord would be huge, given the sector's economic clout.

WTO member states on Friday agreed to abolish duties on more than 200 additional technology products, ranging from advanced computer chips to GPS devices, printer cartridges and video game consoles, DW reported.

The accord marked the organization's first tariff-reducing deal in almost two decades and came as an expansion of the 1997 Information Technology Agreement, which included 80 WTO members.

Officials said the updated accord covered products generating $1 trillion in annual global revenues, equal to the trade in iron, steel, textiles and clothing combined, the WTO stated.

Far-Reaching Accord

Although not all 161 member countries chose to sign the deal, it will benefit all nations as it eliminates the tariffs on products no matter which WTO country they come from.

"The deal will open markets, create jobs and spur economic growth around the world, as well as bring down costs for consumers," said the president of the Information Technology Industry Council trade group in Washington, Dean Garfield.

Negotiators will still have to sort out some technical details until December when WTO members are due to meet in Nairobi, Kenya.

Biotech Restrictions

The WTO committee dealing with food safety, animal and plant health, formally known as the Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, heard a record number of specific trade concerns when it met in mid-July.

Several members raised concerns about the European Union’s proposed amendment of its approval procedure for genetically modified food and feed, also known as biotech products. The United States said that the amendment would allow EU member states to restrict or ban the use of such products with no justified reasons. Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Canada raised similar concerns, stating that the proposed revision would create unnecessary barriers to international trade.

The Committee also discussed China’s proposed regulatory change related to biotech products. China recently notified the WTO about the proposed amendments of its safety assessment of agricultural genetically modified organisms.

Paraguay and the United States welcomed China’s notification, but noted the negative impact such a regulatory procedure could have on international trade. According to the United States, the delays and lack of transparency in China’s current biotech approval process remain a serious trade concern for exporters, and the proposed amendment could further prolong and complicate the approval process. In response, China said that the draft revision aims to enhance the safety assessment of agricultural GMOs, and invited WTO members to comment on the proposed revision.