Friday, November 22, 2013
U.S. says China jeopardizing WTO technology agreement
The United States accused China on Thursday of endangering talks on eliminating trade tariffs for billions of dollars worth of technology products due to its determination to claim dozens of exemptions.
Teams of negotiators met at the Permanent Mission of the European Union to the World Trade Organisation in Geneva through November 20 to expand the "core list" of products covered by the Information Technology Agreement, a WTO tariff-cutting scheme established in 1996 when devices such as smartphones were not around.
The talks are aimed at expanding and updating the ITA for the Internet era, cutting the import cost of a long list of items such as personal computers, laptops, telephones, fax machines, computer software, semi-conductors and many office machines.
China provided in talks last month a large "sensitivities list" of 130 products, which it wants to be excluded from the expanded ITA or have longer tariff phase-out periods. The ITA negotiations have about 250 products being considered for duty-free treatment.
China has cut back its list of sensitive items several times since and removed another eight on Monday, during two weeks of intensive talks aimed at resolving differences in time for WTO ministers to sign off on the pact when they meet for a conference in Bali in early December. China is still seeking exemptions on 59 items.
Instead of agreeing to duty-free trade in sensitive products, China has moved them to a list of tariffs that are to be phased out, often over a time frame as long as a decade, one diplomat involved in the talks said.
"China's refusal to show more ambition in product coverage under the WTO's Information Technology Agreement is disappointing for all of the countries, companies, and workers who stand to benefit from an expansion in information technology trade," US Trade Representative Michael Froman said in a comment issued from Washington.
About $4 trillion in trade is covered by the current pact, according to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington think tank that estimates an expanded agreement could cover $800 billion in additional trade.
For more of the GMA story: gmanetwork.com
For more of the South China Morning Post story: scmp.com
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