Trade’s Big 4 in Congress Agree: Go Big or Go Home on the ITA

Vince Jesaitis photo

It’s crunch time in Geneva this week.  We’ve reached a pivotal moment in the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) negotiations currently taking place in that global city, which is host of the World Trade Organization.  Negotiating teams and business stakeholders from around the world, including ITI’s John Neuffer, are there for the ninth time this year to move toward a commercially significant expansion of the ITA -- the first time the agreement will have been expanded since it was implemented in 1997.  This will be a huge boon for the domestic high-tech sector, resulting in increased U.S. exports and the creation of tens of thousands of additional American jobs.

Underscoring the importance of those negotiations, the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee reiterated their support for a strong outcome in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman yesterday.  As Senators Baucus and Hatch, and Representatives Camp and Levin state in the letter:

"Through tariff elimination on information technology products, the ITA has helped to increase jobs, spur growth, drive innovation, lower consumer prices, and connect communities around the world.  If done successfully, ITA expansion can increase U.S. exports of technology products, expand global GDP, and support the creation of American jobs."

This strong bipartisan, bicameral show of support for achieving an ambitious outcome on an expanded ITA could not have come at a more critical time.  Not all of our trading partners are entirely on the same page and need a political push if we are to see a big outcome in the negotiations.  The lawmakers note that:

"Countries such as China must increase their ambition by, for example, significantly reducing the number of products they seek to exclude from coverage of the expanded ITA, and committing to shorter tariff phaseout periods for sensitive products included in the final deal."

This congressional support, and the call for a “strong political commitment” from the Obama Administration, provides full-throated backing to the great work being done by Ambassador Froman and his team on the ground in Geneva to achieve an ambitious outcome that generates maximum benefits to the domestic tech sector. 

A lot of work remains over the next week, but yesterday’s letter from the “Big 4” in Congress makes clear there is unambiguous bipartisan agreement an expanded ITA would be a big win for American industry, the global economy, an innovation.  

Finally, the letter also calls for a “robust Bali Ministerial package” that includes a “strong trade facilitation agreement.”  Heavily reliant on global supply chains, the U.S.  tech industry also welcomes congressional support for this other important trade initiative.

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