by Devi Keller, Director, Global Policy
SIA joined a high-tech industry delegation to Geneva last week to press for the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA). Our group, comprised of seven business associations and a number of high tech company representatives, met with approximately 20 ITA negotiating delegations to deliver three key messages:
First, we expressed the need for a swift conclusion of the ITA talks, hopefully by the end of summer. It has been 20 years since the last tariff liberalization effort within the World Trade Organization. Now with 22 regions officially part of the core group of ITA negotiations, we should not miss the opportunity to seize the momentum for ITA expansion and score a big win for trade and the global economy.
We were thrilled to hear that there is broad interest among many negotiators to meet this timeframe. With four ITA meetings scheduled through July, we are hopeful that ITA expansion is on the right track for a successful conclusion.
Second, we expressed the importance of having an ambitious outcome that is not only commercially meaningful, but forward-looking. That means strengthening the agreement with additional ICT product lines across the digital eco-system, including new innovations in semiconductor technology, upstream manufacturing equipment, tools and materials, and downstream consumer ICT products. Given the complex and global nature of the ICT supply chain, lowering costs across the ICT eco-system will ensure that countries have the greatest access to the technologies that form the backbone of their critical infrastructure, economic and job growth, innovation and productivity.
It has been 16 years since the original ITA went into force in 1997. In that time, amazing innovations in the tech sector have occurred, including two new types of semiconductor devices – multicomponent semiconductors (MCOs) and multi-chip packages (MCPs). These semiconductor innovations are what have enabled greater miniaturization, mobility, energy efficiency, and cost savings in end-use devices.
In order to reap the benefits of the past 16 years of innovation, and to encourage continued innovation in the ICT sector, we need ITA expansion. While not all countries may have a large semiconductor or ICT manufacturing base, they all do rely on the digital economy as a key contributor to economic growth. ICT products are used throughout developed and developing economies alike to facilitate education, critical infrastructure, service industries, and entrepreneurship, all of which create exciting opportunities for new businesses and new jobs. The effort to expand the ITA is an effort to ensure that the digital economy flourishes, to the benefit of all nations and all industries, not just the ICT industry.
Lastly, the ITA is an important component of a broader set of initiatives to strengthen global trade. Other trade initiatives supported by SIA include 1) the negotiations to establish an international services agreement; 2) a trade facilitation agreement as part of the Doha Round; and 3) the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. We believe that all of these initiatives play a complementary role in enhancing market access and global trade.
Judging from the good progress witnessed during industry’s meetings in Geneva, ITA expansion distinguishes itself as a likely big win for 2013. The next ITA meeting is the week of April 22. SIA will continue to actively engage on this issue.
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