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Action 100: Seek mandate to update ITA

24 October 2010

Digital Agenda goal: Seek a mandate to update international agreements in line with technological progress or, where appropriate, propose new instruments.

What is the problem? International agreements lag behind evolution in technology

The Information Technology Agreement (ITA) of 1997 has achieved tremendous results in promoting the up-take of information technology in Europe and worldwide. As technology evolves and information and communications technology (ICT) goods become increasingly multifunctional, the ITA is at risk of losing relevance to today’s trade and technologies. The ITA needs to be updated to take into account the evolution of technology.

Why is EU action necessary? EU can help boost international export in IT products

World export in IT products has almost tripled since the 90s to $1500 billion in 2010. This accounts for 20% of total world exports of manufactured products. The ITA covers 97% of world trade in IT goods. It includes 70 countries and customs territories. Members eliminate duties and extend these benefits to all World Trade Organisation (WTO) members. Tariff-free trade has offered many developing and transition economies the opportunity to grow by entering global ICT production networks. The agreement currently covers six broad categories of ICT products: computers, telecommunication equipment, semiconductors, semiconductor manufacturing equipment, storage media and scientific instruments.

What has the Commission done until now?

The Commission has completed internal consultations on the revised list of products for the ITA negotiations, following consultations with the ICT industry. Currently, negotiations are being pursued with third countries, among which the ASEAN countries, China, Japan and the U.S. have expressed interest in updating the product list. Following the ITA Committee meeting on 24 October, where the EU reiterated its proposal to expand the coverage of products and participants under the ITA. The Philippines, Japan and the United States said they were still studying the EU paper, while the Russian Federation said that as part of its accession to the WTO, it was committed to duty-free treatment for products covered by the ITA. The Russian Federation intends to fully join the ITA, and would be submitting a letter to the ITA Committee Chair to this effect, including a schedule of its commitments.

What will the European Commission do?

By end of 2011:

  • To open negotiations on the ITA in the WTO (the Commission has already received a mandate from the Council to that effect).

The goals are:

  • To eliminate unjustified non-tariff barriers on information technology products and to prevent the creation of new barriers.
  • To expand the product coverage in line with technological innovation and product convergence.
  • Regularly update the agreement to keep track of technological development and convergence.
  • Include major producers of IT products that are still outside the ITA.

Additional Information