DATELINE BEIJING – At a press briefing this morning, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman announced a much-anticipated breakthrough in the negotiations to expand product coverage of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA). Coming on the margins of this year’s summit convened by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders, this bilateral agreement between the United States and China clears the way for all the members of World Trade Organization (WTO) participating in the effort to return to Geneva this year to conclude the agreement. Once completed, ITA expansion will make history, representing the biggest tariff-elimination undertaking achieved by the WTO in nearly two decades.
ITI applauds the sustained effort by President Obama and his team at USTR for their unrelenting efforts to achieve this deal and break the logjam. At the APEC leaders’ meeting currently underway, the President said:
"It was APEC's work that led to the Information Technology Agreement, which we are now negotiating to expand. So, it is fitting that we are here with our APEC colleagues to share the news that the United States and China have reached an understanding that we hope will contribute to a rapid conclusion of the broader negotiations in Geneva."
We anticipate the official declaration to emerge from the APEC leaders’ meeting later today to include text supporting swift resumption and conclusion of the talks in Geneva.
With this bilateral deal to expand product scope, a number of important goods will now be included in the final round of talks, such as next-generation semiconductors called MCOs, a range of medical equipment, a wide array of sophisticated measuring devices, and point-of-sale cards to download software and games. These additional product lines will add significant commercial value to the overall agreement.
The Chinese can rightly take credit for helping to breathe life back into the troubled WTO, which continues to struggle with finding mechanisms to get back in the business of market liberalization. By giving a boost the ITA, China joins the chorus of countries supporting the notion that plurilateral trade agreements can be both commercially significant and doable in the WTO context.
Now we look to China to continue to play a leadership role in Geneva in order to help pull everyone else together to seal the final deal. The Chinese economy will benefit hugely from ITA expansion.
So the next stop is Geneva, where we hope all the negotiating parties will gather to wrap up this agreement by the end of the year. We are looking forward to working with China and the others involved to finalize a strong deal. It’s been a long road and much has been achieved. Though we are now in the final stretch, complacency is not in order. There is still much work to be done to ensure everyone at the negotiating table can come to closure. For today, however, we can relax our shoulders a bit and enjoy the moment.
Click here for more information from USTR on how the ITA supports economic growth in the U.S. and overseas.