Trillion-dollar world trade deal aims to make IT products cheaper

WTO members negotiated to cut tariffs on more than 200 tech products

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A new global trade agreement that eliminates tariffs on more than 200 kinds of IT products should result in lower prices to technology buyers around the world as it is implemented over the next three years.

The tentative deal, struck on Friday at a World Trade Organization meeting in Geneva, affects a wide variety of products ranging from smartphones, routers, and ink cartridges to video game consoles and telecommunications satellites. It covers US$1.3 trillion worth of global trade, about 7 percent of total trade today.

Import duties won't be removed immediately. They will begin to be phased out next year, and eliminated within three years, the European Commission said. The new deal extends the 1996 Information Technology Agreement that eliminated customs duties on IT products such as computers, telephones, digital cameras and their parts. The list of items covered under the new agreement includes finished products as well as manufacturing equipment and components.

"This deal will cut costs for consumers and business -- in particular for smaller firms, which have been hit especially hard by excessive tariffs in the past," Cecilia Malmström, EU Trade Commissioner, said in a statement.

A full list of products covered was published by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which called the ITA expansion "great news for the American workers and businesses that design, manufacture, and export state-of-the-art technology and information products, ranging from MRI machines to semiconductors to video game consoles." The U.S. annually exports $100 billion worth of technology products covered by the expanded product list, it said.

With an agreement in place about what products will be covered, representatives from the participating countries will work out details of the plan at the WTO's 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi this December, the WTO said. The WTO hopes the deal will be finalized there, a spokesman said.

The WTO members involved in the negotiations included the EU and its 28 countries, as well as Albania, Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Hong Kong, China, Iceland, Israel, Japan; Korea, Malaysia, Mauritius, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, Chinese Taipei, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, and the U.S.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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