International Trade Globalisation
The Ministerial Declaration on Trade in Information Technology Products (ITA) was concluded by 29 participants at the Singapore Ministerial Conference in December 1996. The number of participants has grown to 70, representing about 97 per cent of world trade in information technology products. The ITA provides for participants to completely eliminate duties on IT products covered by the Agreement. Developing country participants have been granted extended periods for some products.
Basic Principles of the ITA
The ITA is solely a tariff cutting mechanism. While the Declaration provides for the review of non-tariff barriers (NTBs), there are no binding commitments concerning NTBs. There are three basic principles that one must abide by to become an ITA participant: 1) all products listed in the Declaration must be covered, 2) all must be reduced to a zero tariff level, and 3) all other duties and charges (ODCs) must be bound at zero. There are no exceptions to product coverage, however for sensitive items, it is possible to have an extended implementation period. The commitments undertaken under the ITA in the WTO are on an MFN basis, and therefore benefits accrue to all other WTO Members.
The ITA today
The Committee of Participants on the Expansion of Trade in Information Technology Products
After the ITA came into being, the participants saw the need to establish a formal Committee under the WTO to carry out the provisions of the Declaration. The document on Implementation of the Ministerial Declaration on Trade in Information Technology Products (hereinafter “Implementation” document, G/L/160) sets out the establishment of the Committee. The Committee held its first meeting on 29 September 1997, and there have been approximately five formal meetings per year of the Committee since that time. The Committee has established rules of procedure (G/IT/3, MS Word format, 3 pages, 100KB, opens in a new window, see download guide) which are similar to other WTO bodies and typically has a diverse agenda of matters relating to the ITA.
Ongoing Work of the Committee
In addition to the topic of product coverage, mentioned below, the Committee has worked on a number of issues since its inception. These include the examination of classification divergences, consultations on non-tariff barriers, invoking new participants, and discussing implementation matters (MS word format, 4 pages, 32KB, opens in a new window, see download guide).
The Ministerial Declaration and the Implementation document provides that participants will periodically review the product coverage (often termed ITA II) specified in the Attachments to the Declaration. The first review commenced in October 1997 when participants were invited to submit lists of additional information technology products for possible additional tariff concessions. In 1998, participants continued to discuss the lists, provide clarification, exchange views, and negotiate with a view to making a decision on whether to revise the Attachments by 30 June 1998. However, no agreement could be reached at that time, and the process continued throughout 1998. At subsequent meetings of the Committee, still no agreement could be reached and to date there has been no products added to the original coverage. Consultations between delegations on the review of product coverage continue.