The first Information Technology Agreement (ITA) was concluded by 29 participants at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference held in Singapore in December 1996. Today, the number of participants (including the EU and its member states) has increased to 61 who together represent about 97% of world trade in IT products.
At the latest Ministerial Conference, held in Nairobi in December 2015, over 50 members concluded a highly significant expansion to the terms of the Agreement. By bringing about the complete elimination of tariffs on IT products this expansion will not only drive down costs for consumers, thus allowing them to enjoy the latest in technology and innovation easier and faster than ever before, it will also give investors and traders significantly improved market access and predictability.
The ITA covers a large number of high technology products, including computers, telecommunication equipment, semiconductors, semiconductor manufacturing and testing equipment, software and scientific instruments, as well as most of the parts and accessories used in these products.
The IT sector has been one of the fastest growing sectors in world trade. Today, export sales of the 201 products involved totals $1.3 trillion per year, about 10% of total global trade.
The first round of tariff cuts commenced on 1st July. The WTO estimates that:
- about 65% of the relevant tariff lines (representing 88% of the participants’ imports of the products concerned), were already duty-free on that date;
- 95% will be covered by 2019;
- 100% of IT imports by participating countries will be duty free by 2024.
For more information on the WTO Information Technology Agreement click here.