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Talks on Expanding Duty-Free Trade in IT Goods to Resume This Month

Wednesday, October 09, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

Negotiations on expanding the World Trade Organization’s Information Technology Agreement are set to resume the week of Oct. 21 and could be wrapped up in time for the WTO ministerial meeting in early December. A three-month impasse in the talks was broken when China pledged to reduce the number of products it wants to exclude, a move some reports say may be linked to Beijing’s bid to join an effort to hammer out a new plurilateral deal to liberalize trade in services.

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. That plan was derailed and the talks suspended, however, when China said it had sensitivities with respect to 148 of those goods and wanted to exclude 106 of them altogether.

According to press reports, China has now said it will circulate a revised sensitive list during the week of Oct. 14. Beijing’s initial commitment is reportedly a 30% reduction in this list, though the U.S. and others are thought likely to push for that number to go higher.

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