WASHINGTON (AP) — Dozens of countries have agreed to abolish duties on more than 200 technology products — from advanced computer chips to GPS devices, printer cartridges and video-game consoles.
The agreement announced Friday marks the World Trade Organization’s first tariff-killing deal in 18 years.
The deal is an expansion of the 1997 Information Technology Agreement.
“Today’s agreement is a landmark,” said WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo. “Annual trade in these 201 products is valued at over $1.3 trillion per year, and accounts for approximately 7 percent of total global trade today. This is larger than global trade in automotive products — or trade in textiles, clothing, iron and steel combined.”
American companies sell $100 billion a year in products covered by the deal. U.S. Trade Rep. Michael Froman called the agreement “great news for the American works and businesses that design manufacture and export state-of-the-art technology and information products.”
Froman’s office says the deal will support 60,000 American jobs.
Not all 161 WTO member countries signed on to the expanded deal; 49 did. But all will benefit because it eliminates the tariffs on dozens of tech products no matter which WTO country they come from. Tariffs are taxes imposed on imported goods.
In order for the deal to take effect, however, countries signing the accord must account for 90 percent of global trade in technology products. Taiwan, a big producer of electronics, has faced considerable domestic pressure not to join. Along with four other countries — Thailand, Turkey, Columbia and Mauritius — Taiwan asked Friday for more time to consider the agreement.
Talks on revising the technology agreement began in 2012. The breakthrough occurred when the U.S. and China worked out most of their differences during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Washington last November.
Negotiators still must complete technical details and a timetable for eliminating the tariffs. The work is expected to be complete by the time WTO trade ministers meet in Nairobi, Kenya, in December.
Once implemented, the agreement will require countries to eliminate trade tariffs on most new-generation semi-conductors, satellite navigation systems, medical products that include magnetic resonance imaging machines, machine tools for manufacturing printed circuits, telecommunications satellites and touch screens within three years starting in 2016, the WTO said.
“This deal will cut costs for consumers and business, in particular for smaller firms, which have been hit especially hard by excessive tariffs in the past,” EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom said in a statement.
Jordans reported from Berlin.
Associated Press Writer Geir Moulson contributed to this report.
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