WTO seals landmark trade deal

The WTO has agreed to expand the IT Agreement and eliminate tariffs on 200 IT products

Roberto Azevêdo, Director-General of the WTO, said that the organisation's latest agreement was "a big deal"

The World Trade Organisation has secured a landmark trade deal to eliminate tariffs on a reported $1trn of information technology products. Negotiations on the IT Agreement started as far back as 2012, and it took representatives of the organisation’s 54-nation membership until July 18 to reach a consensus on the expanded list of items.

Negotiations along the way have been less
than smooth

“This is a big deal”, said the WTO’s Director-General Roberto Azevêdo in a statement. “The trade covered in this agreement is comparable to annual global trade in iron, steel, textiles and clothing combined. By taking this step, WTO members will help to provide a jump-start to the global economy and underline the WTO’s role as the central global forum for trade negotiations.”

Negotiations along the way have been less than smooth, with Beijing accused of trying to exclude too wide a range of items in order to hand its industries an edge in global trade. The agreed upon deal will see the list of products expanded to 200, including advanced microchips, new generation semiconductors, video games consoles, MRI machines, and a range of items that were scarcely invented last the deal was made in 1997.

Now that the product list and declaration have been approved, the WTO will take the next few months to arrive at the specifics of the revised agreement, including a timetable for tariff elimination.

Major industry names are expected to benefit greatly as a result, as trade of the 200 items is made both cheaper and simpler. Consumers, as well as manufacturers, may also benefit, with the price of imported goods expected to fall.