China and the United States have reached a breakthrough in talks on eliminating duties on information technology products, US Trade Representative Michael Froman said on Tuesday.
The breakthrough would allow the “swift conclusion” on talks to expand the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) at the World Trade Organization in Geneva later this year, Reuters quoted Froman as saying on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing.
A deal would reduce global tariffs on such products as medical equipment, GPS devices, video games consoles and next-generation semiconductors, the report said.
“This is encouraging news for the US-China relationship,” Froman said. “It shows how the US and China work together to both advance our bilateral economic agenda but also to support the multilateral trading system.”
The ITA, which went into effect in 1997, now covers more than US$4 trillion in annual trade. Participants to ITA commit to eliminating tariffs on such items as computers and computer software, telecommunication equipment and other advanced technology products.
An expanded ITA would eliminate tariffs on about US$1 trillion worth of global sales on IT products, Froman said. More than 200 tariff lines will be reduced to zero under the new agreement.
US Chamber of Commerce executive vice president Myron Brilliant welcomed the announcement.
“With so many new products created since the ITA was concluded two decades ago, expanding the agreement’s coverage is imperative,” Brilliant said in a statement. “The commercial significance of these negotiations is obvious.”
Talks to update the WTO pact on technology trade broke down in the summer of 2013 due to disagreements over the scope of coverage of what listed products would be covered by the pact.
“Since that time, the United States and China have been working to close our differences,” Froman was quoted as saying.
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