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WTO Information Technology Agreement
The World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Declaration on Trade in Information Technology Products, known as the Information Technology Agreement (ITA), was concluded at the WTO's First Ministerial Conference in Singapore in December 1996. The scope of the agreement included a wide range of information technology products such as computers and computer peripheral equipment, electronic components including semiconductors, computer software, telecommunications equipment, semiconductor manufacturing equipment, and computer-based analytical instruments. The WTO ITA requires each participant to eliminate and bind customs duties at zero for all products specified in the agreement. Original participants in the WTO ITA eliminated tariffs as of January 1, 2000.
As of 2016, the 81 WTO Members are now party to the WTO ITA, representing approximately 97 percent of world trade in information technology products. The IT sector has been one of the fastest growing sectors in world trade. Today, trade in these products accounts for approximately 10 percent of global merchandise exports.
Additional information on the agreement is available at https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/inftec_e/inftec_e.htm.
In December 2015, the United States and over 50 WTO Members announced a landmark expansion of the WTO Information Technology Agreement, which will phase out hundreds of tariffs on information communication technology (ICT) exports all over the world. The expanded agreement will eliminate tariffs on technologies developed since the initial agreement, as well as broader applications of ICT.
The agreement covers a list of 201 products, which the WTO estimates have $1.3 trillion in global exports per year. The United States exports $180 billion in these technologies each year. The expansion agreement covers products such as television cameras, static converters, navigational instruments (GPS), medical equipment, and advanced semiconductors. A full list of the covered products is available at: https://docs.wto.org/dol2fe/Pages/FE_Search/DDFDocuments/225713/q/WT/MIN15/25.pdf.
Tariffs will be eliminated by the participating countries on a most favored nation (MFN) basis, so all WTO members will be able to take advantage of the tariff cuts when exporting covered products to parties to the agreement.
Each participating country negotiated with the other participants how its individual tariffs would be cut, but the WTO estimates that 65 percent of the tariff lines, representing 88 percent of the participants’ imports of the covered products will be duty-free on day one of the agreement - July 1, 2016, rising to 95 percent by 2019, and by 2014, 100 percent of the imports by participating countries will be duty free.