Forty governments responsible for the movement of almost $600 billion worth of IT trade formally agreed to drop tariffs on high-tech goods last week.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Declaration on Trade in information Technology (ITA) will cut customs duties on computer and telecomms products beginning on 1 July 1997 and ending by the year 2000.
But the deadline has been extended for seven countries including Korea and Chinese Taiwan who respectively were the world?s fifth and seventh leading exporters of IT products in 1995.
The participants, which include all 15 member states of the EC, the US, Japan, India and Thailand, will reduce and finally drop tariffs in four stages.
However, a few loose ends have yet to be tied. Approval for Panama and Poland still needs to be negotiated by trading partners, and two more WTO members, the Philippines and El Salvador, will join at a later date.
In 1995, Japan and the US were the respective leaders of IT exports and imports.
Japan exported $106.6 billion worth of goods while the US imported $139.93 billion worth of IT products. The accord covers 92.5 per cent of the world?s IT trade.
Renato Ruggiero, WTO director general said: ?The impact of these agreements on improved living standards for the world?s citizens should not be underestimated. The computers, semiconductors, telecoms hardware and computer software that are included in the ITA are the conduit for the delivery of information. By making such products more affordable, we move one step closer to the vision of a telephone in every village of the world.?
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