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WTO countries seal zero tariff deal on high-tech goods

Fri 24 Jul 2015

Members of the World Trade Organsiation (WTO) have today agreed to cut tariffs on $1 trillion (approx. £650bn) worth of information technology products, ranging from video games to healthcare devices.

The deal will work as an extension of the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement (ITA) signed 18 years ago, adding over 200 cutting-edge technology goods to the list of products which can legitimately enjoy zero-tariff, duty-free trade.

The WTO claims that the sum equals global trade in the iron, steel and textiles industries combined.

According to the U.S. Trade Representative, more than $100bn worth of U.S. tech products would be covered by the updated framework, including exports from tech giants Microsoft, Intel, Texas Instruments, and General Electric. Industry estimates predict up to 60,000 new jobs could also be supported by the tariff cuts.

“ITA’s expansion is 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,” said U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

As well as medical equipment and computer software, the Technology CEO Council said duty-free would also envelope printer ink cartridges, GPS devices and next generation semiconductors, which currently face tariffs of up to 8%.

“That definitely impacts Intel and that’s important but also as important are the other technologies that it covers that were not even dreamt of when the original ITA was negotiated,” said Intel’s communication director Lisa Malloy. “Things like […] health devices and GPS [are] technologies that semiconductors and Intel hope to power in the years to come,” she added.

A spokesperson for General Electric, which manufactures MRI equipment in South Carolina and Wisconsin, also commented: “This is a significant win for public health […] We urge all partners to implement a quick phase out of tariffs so that patients can benefit from enhanced access as soon as possible.”

Negotiations to update the 1996 ITA began in 2012.


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