The World Trade Organisation (WTO) said it is to make one last effort to conclude a deal on cutting global IT tariffs.
Negotiators are to try to break the deadlock that resulted from trade talks this summer, aiming to cut duties on various IT and telecomms products, as a follow-up to an earlier pact, ITA I, that comes into force in 2000.
The New Zealand chairman of the talks, Martin Harvey, believes there is still hope for a settlement, despite fierce opposition from some countries.
He said Malaysia is now prepared to relax its demand for deep cuts in EU tariffs on consumer electronics but that India is sticking to its demand to exclude dual-use kit.
However, European Commission sources said that Malaysia's demands for cuts in the EU's 14 per cent tariffs on consumer electronic equipment, such as on DVD digital video disk players and video recorders, could still kill a deal, as could the failure by the US to end duties on computer monitor tubes.
Harvey believes his recent consultations mean a deal can be achieved by a final round of intensive negotiations, culminating in a formal meeting on 20 November to approve a 'modest' package of products to be covered in addition to those included in the major ITA I agreement in December 1996.
Japan believes an agreement is close and the US is also sanguine, a WTO sources said. There are hopes that talks in the TransAtlantic Business Dialogue and at the APEC summit of US and Asian countries will push forward solutions for ITA II before the 20 November summit.
Malaysia said it would withdraw some items, such as loud speakers, from its list of demands, as proof of its flexibility, but told Harvey that the rest of its consumer electronics demands stay.
Canada told the talks that it would contribute by being more specific about the products it wants on the table, such as radar equipment and computer panel boards.
The main elements of any deal would involve cuts in tariffs on printed circuit board manufacturing equipment, negotiators said.
The WTO said Switzerland believes it will be difficult to extend talks if no deal is reached by 20 November while Norway and Australia remain committed to a reduced but balanced package.
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