WTO slashes tariffs on IT goods but implementation held up

Fri Jul 24, 2015 1:14pm EDT
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By Tom Miles

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Trade Organization finalised a list of 201 information technology products to be freed from import tariffs in a $1.3 trillion deal on Friday, but said it was still short of the critical mass of countries needed to put it into force.

The first global tariff-cutting deal in 18 years will mean consumers should pay less for products such as computers, touch-screen devices, games consoles and hi-fi systems, while companies will see cuts in the cost of machine tools and components, giving a boost to economies globally.

“Today's agreement is a landmark,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said in a statement, adding that the value of trade involved was worth 7 percent of the global total, more than world trade in cars.

The product list includes new-generation semi-conductors, GPS navigation systems, medical products which include magnetic resonance imaging machines, printed circuits and satellites, the WTO said.

Once in force, the agreement will update the WTO's 18-year-old Information Technology Agreement and add the 201 products to the list of goods covered by zero-tariff and duty-free trade.

Removing tariffs on trade worth $1.3 trillion is expected to give a $190 billion boost to the world economy.

However, five of the 54 WTO members that negotiated the deal - Taiwan, Turkey, Thailand, Colombia and Mauritius - failed to sign up, leaving the deal short of a quorum, measured as 90 percent of world trade in those products, needed to bring it into force for all 161 WTO members.

"The majority have already confirmed their participation. We expect those participants who didn't, that they will soon," Azevedo told reporters. "And others who haven't even participated before have expressed their interest in joining."   Continued...

The World Trade Organization WTO logo is seen at the entrance of the WTO headquarters in Geneva April 9, 2013.REUTERS/Ruben Sprich