A Milestone Moment Leads to a Good Week for Global Trade

John Neuffer photo

As global trade leaders completed their meetings at the WTO this week in Geneva, ITI’s Vice President for Global Policy John Neuffer was there to advocate for an expansion of the ITA and other issues critical to the tech sector.  Before leaving for home, John wrapped up the developments at the WTO.
 
Free trade took an important step forward here at the WTO in Geneva earlier this week when agreement was reached to begin talks to expand product coverage of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA).  This came immediately on the heels of a major symposium marking the 15th anniversary of the ITA convened by the WTO Secretariat.
 
Attended by more than 300 private-sector and trade officials from around the world, the event highlighted the myriad benefits the ITA has generated over the years by eliminating tariffs on a wide range of products and reducing costs to consumers of tech products.  The agreement is viewed by the global tech industry as one of the most commercially successful trade agreements ever, helping to expand trade on products covered by 10 percent for the past 15 years.
 
The clarion call emanating from speakers at the event, starting with a keynote address by former U.S. Trade Representative Barshefsky on Monday, was that it is high time for the WTO to get on with the business of updating the ITA, which has not had a single product added to it since its launch in 1996.
 
On Tuesday, officials representing the 74 countries in the ITA heard the call and agreed that meetings would commence to take forward the initiative to expand of the agreement.
 
Much work lies ahead for trade officials in the ITA to determine exactly which products would be added to the agreement.  But the first big step has been taken down a path that, according to a study by the Information Technology & Information Foundation, could lead to 60,000 new U.S. jobs and an injection of $190 billion to the global economy each year.
 
John Neuffer is the vice president for global policy at ITI.

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