The WTO Ministerial Declaration on Trade in Information Technology Products [InformationTechnology Agreement (ITA)] was concluded at the WTO's First Ministerial Conference at Singapore in December 1996.
Original participants in the ITA eliminated tariffs as of January 1, 2000, on a wide range of information technology products, and modified their WTO schedules of tariff concessions accordingly.
As of October 2008, the ITA had 44 participants, covering 71 Members and States or separate customs territories in the process of acceding to the WTO and representing approximately 97 percent of world trade in information technology products.
The ITA covers a wide range of information technology products including:
computers and computer peripheral equipment
electronic components including semiconductors
semiconductor manufacturing equipment
computer-based analytical instruments
The United States and Japan on May 28, 2008, and Chinese Taipei on June 12, 2008, requested consultations with the European Communities and its member States with respect to their tariff treatment of certain information technology products.
The United States, Japan, and Chinese Taipei all claim that the tariff treatment the European Communities and its member States accord to certain information technology products does not respect their commitments to provide duty-free treatment for these products under the Information Technology Agreement (ITA). According to the United States, Japan and Chinese Taipei, the European Communities and its member States now impose duties on these products contrary to their scheduled duty-free tariff concessions arising from the ITA.
The United States, Japan and Chinese Taipei assert that a number of EC customs classification legal instruments, alone or in combination with Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2658/87 of July 23, 1987, on the tariff and statistical nomenclature and on the Common Customs Tariff, including all annexes thereto, as amended, appear to be inconsistent with the EC's and its member States' obligations under Article II:1(a) and II:1(b) of the GATT 1994 and their Schedules, and therefore nullify or impair benefits accruing to the United States, Japan and Chinese Taipei under the GATT 1994.
The United States and Chinese Taipei also claim that the publication of certain amended explanatory notes in the EC Official Journal after their application by its member States is inconsistent with the EC's obligations under Article X:1 and X:2 of the GATT 1994.
With respect to disputes WT/DS375 and WT/DS376, Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Chinese Taipei and China requested to join the consultations.
With respect to dispute WT/DS377, the United States, China and Japan requested to join the consultations. Subsequently, the European Communities informed the DSB that it had accepted the request of China to join the consultations.
On August 18, 2008, the United States, Japan and Chinese Taipei, jointly and severally, requested the establishment of a panel. At its meeting on August 29, 2008, the Dispute Settlement Body deferred the establishment of a panel.
At its meeting on September 23, 2008, the DSB established a panel and Brazil, China, Hong Kong, China, India, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam reserved their third-party rights. Subsequently, Australia, Costa Rica, Singapore, and Turkey reserved their third-party rights.
Major Issues in 2008
The WTO Committee on the Expansion of Trade in Information Technology Products held one formal meeting in 2008. Work continued on classification divergences affecting ITA products and the Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) Work Program as well as on drafting a list of conformity assessment procedures for the EMC/EMI (Electromagnetic Compatibility/Electromagnetic Interference) pilot project.
The Committee membership reappointed Chairperson Khalid Emara of Egypt. Peru submitted its ITA schedule to participants for verification and approval. The EU introduced a proposal calling for immediate negotiations to review the ITA, under the premise that the existing Agreement is inadequate to address new developments in technology.
Several countries, including the United States, raised significant questions and concerns about the EU proposal.Related agreements: