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WTO deal reached to cut tariffs on technology products

The EU, US and China, along with more than 50 other members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), have agreed a "tentative accord" to cut custom duties charged on 201 IT products.

Under the deal, tariffs would be removed from a range of products including medical equipment, telecommunications satellites, semiconductors, touch screens and GPS devices, the WTO said.

Ministers from the participating members will aim to conclude implementation plans in time for the WTO conference in Nairobi in December, the WTO said.

"Today's agreement is a landmark," said WTO director-general Roberto Azevêdo. "Annual trade in these 201 products is valued at over $1.3 trillion per year, and accounts for approximately 7% of total global trade today. This is larger than global trade in automotive products — or trade in textiles, clothing, iron and steel combined.

"Eliminating tariffs on trade of this magnitude will have a huge impact. It will support lower prices — including in many other sectors that use IT products as inputs — it will create jobs and it will help to boost GDP growth around the world," he said.

The deal is an extension of an Information Technology Agreement made in 1996, and is the biggest tariff-cutting deal by the WTO in almost two decades, covering €1 trillion in global trade and 90% of world trade in the products concerned, the European Commission said.

"This is a great deal for consumers, and for companies big and small," said EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström. "We’ve worked hard to broker this compromise between different countries and to find the best solutions for Europe. This deal will cut costs for consumers and business – in particular for smaller firms, which have been hit especially hard by excessive tariffs in the past. Just as important, this deal shows how we can use the EU’s trade policy to encourage innovation in the IT sector – a part of our economy that is crucial for Europe's growth and for creating jobs."

Under the terms of the agreement, the majority of tariffs will be eliminated on these products within three years, with reductions beginning in 2016, the WTO said.

The agreement also contains a commitment to work to tackle non-tariff barriers in the IT sector, and to keep the list of products covered under review to determine whether further expansion may be needed to reflect future technological developments, it said. 

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