Negotiations to Expand Information Technology Agreement Suspended
Press reports indicate that negotiations on expanding the World Trade Organization’s Information Technology Agreement were again suspended Nov. 21 when China refused to narrow its list of sensitive products that would be excluded from the scope of the agreement. One day earlier a group of six U.S. industry associations called on the Chinese ambassador to the United States to persuade his government to adopt a significantly more ambitious stance in the ITA negotiations in the hopes of reaching a commercially significant outcome to the benefit of China, the United States and the global economy. The Nov. 20 letter by the six associations observes that while every party in these negotiations has shown flexibility “China has remained vaguely engaged and seemingly unwilling to adopt a forward-leading approach that will be necessary to conclude a strong agreement.” The associations believe that a successful conclusion to the ITA expansion will further strengthen the WTO and send a strong signal that China “is ready and willing to be a constructive actor in other multilateral trade talks.”
The ITA was negotiated in 1996 and provides for duty-free trade of about 180 items between 75 signatory countries, accounting for about $2 trillion in annual global exports. Talks on broadening the agreement to encompass more than 250 additional products that have been developed in the intervening 17 years, such as DVD players, smartphones, video game consoles and advanced semiconductors, had been expected to be conclude this past summer.