ICC Document & publication

ICC supports expansion of product coverage under the WTO Information Technology Agreement

Technological advances do not cause IT products to become “new” products outside of the scope of the ITA. Recommends that all information and communication technology products enjoy duty-free treatment according to the broadest possible definition. Urges ITA signatories to accelerate talks on the expansion of the ITA’s product coverage.

The adoption of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in December 1996 was a major milestone in liberalizing trade in this vital sector for the global economy. The ITA’s objective was to realize an expansion of the world trade in information technology products by eliminating customs duties on these products by January 2000. The ITA currently has 47 signatories, representing 73 states and regions, and covers approximately 97% (according to the WTO) of world trade in information technology products.

It is undisputed the ITA has significantly contributed to:

1. developing world trade in information technology products;
2. promoting productivity, economic growth, investment, technological innovation, and convergence of the information technology industry;
3. increasing employment and improving education; and 4. providing higher living standards for citizens on a global scale.

ICC recommendations

ICC recommends that all information and communication technology products enjoy duty-free treatment according to the broadest possible definition that may include, but not be limited to, the OECD definition, which states:

ICT goods are those that are either intended to fulfill the function of information processing and communication by electronic means, including transmission and display, or which use electronic processing to detect, measure and/or record physical phenomena, or to control a physical process.

The primary characteristics of the products originally covered by the ITA remain unchanged, even if equipped with more sophisticated and technologically advanced additional features. ICC supports the view that technological advances do not cause IT products to become “new” products outside of the scope of the ITA.

Recognizing the success of the agreement and the many benefits it has yielded, ICC urges ITA signatories to accelerate talks on the expansion of the ITA’s product coverage. Given the key role the IT sector plays in driving global growth and the reality of our economic uncertainty, such talks should start immediately. Expansion of the ITA will play a very important role in stimulating the world economy. ICC also recognizes the unique characteristics of ITA as a stand-alone WTO agreement, enabled by the strong support from the global IT/ICT industry. These characteristics should be safeguarded in any expansion negotiation of the ITA.

Finally, ICC stresses the benefits to societies in signatory members, independent of their development status, and therefore encourages more governments of non-signatory countries to seriously consider membership of ITA. Significant non-signatory exporters should also consider membership. However, ICC underlines the substantial benefits of ITA membership for countries being primarily importers of ITA products.

Highlights

  • Technological advances do not cause IT products to become “new” products outside of the scope of the ITA.
  • Recommends that all information and communication technology products enjoy duty-free treatment according to the broadest possible definition.
  • Urges ITA signatories to accelerate talks on the expansion of the ITA’s product coverage.