This week, we mark an important date as the global Information Technology Agreement (ITA) reaches its 15th birthday. With 73 participating members, the ITA has proved to be one of the most commercially successful trade agreements ever. The data bear this out. By eliminating tariffs on core information and communications technologies, the ITA has strengthened and expanded global trade and U.S. competitiveness. Two-way trade in products covered by the ITA has grown from $1.2 trillion to $4 trillion – an amazing 233 percent increase. This growth has led to the creation of new companies, new jobs, and new opportunities across the country. Innovation, productivity, employment, and economic growth have all increased as a result of the ITA.
As world trade officials gather this week in Geneva at the WTO to mark this milestone, they won’t just be looking back at this record of success. They’ll be looking ahead at how to strengthen the ITA. The fastest and best way to do this is to expand the number of products covered by the agreement -- thereby eliminating all tariffs on them.
Step back and think for a minute at the hundreds of new products introduced in the past year, let alone the past 15, and you can understand why ITA expansion would be of enormous benefit to the U.S. and global economies. Many of the technologies that companies and people utilize every day are not included in the ITA, driving up manufacturing costs and consumer prices. The ITA should be expanded to cover products like GPS systems, video game consoles, flat panel TV displays, remote home and patient monitoring devices, multi-component semiconductors and more – technologies that are continually innovating and that are central to people’s lives and nations’ economies.
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) unveiled a report in March showing ITA expansion would yield enormous benefits: U.S. exports of high-tech products would increase by $2.8 billion; there would be approximately 60,000 new U.S. jobs; and global GDP would jump by $190 billion annually. At a time when the global recovery from this worldwide recession is fragile, expanding ITA and infusing those new jobs and benefits into the economy would provide a major boost.
Happy birthday, ITA. Here’s one birthday wish that you continue to grow and prosper in the years ahead.
John Neuffer is ITI’s vice president of global policy.