DATELINE BEIJING – The deadlock to expand product coverage of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) continues following conclusion today of the meeting of ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies. The joint declaration that emerged from the gathering was certainly supportive of ITA expansion, which suggests some progress. But the behind-the-scenes negotiations to get the Chinese to be more ambitious with the number of products they want included in a final deal have not resulted in a breakthrough.
Here’s the ITA-related text as it appeared in the official joint statement:
We underscore the importance of the negotiations to expand the product coverage of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA). A final ITA expansion outcome should be commercially significant, credible, pragmatic, balanced, and reflective of the dynamic technological developments in the information technology sector over the last 17 years, and contribute to the multilateral trading system. We welcome APEC’s leadership in advancing the negotiations.
Perhaps inevitable, the matter is now being kicked to the 21 APEC leaders, who will begin their two-day summit on Monday on the outskirts of Beijing.
We remain hopeful the Chinese will see the wisdom in facilitating a break in the logjam, as this would give a big boost to global trade in tech products, help alleviate the crisis of confidence the World Trade Organization (WTO) is now engulfed in (the ITA is a WTO agreement), and represent a major trade win for APEC this year, which China is hosting.
From our perspective, a successful APEC leaders’ meeting must include a breakthrough on ITA expansion, which would represent the most concrete and commercially significant trade and economic outcome of the summit. Once the deadlock is broken, all the ITA negotiating parties can return to Geneva to wrap up this pro-growth agreement. We, and those other negotiating parties, hope this reality moves the Chinese to action. Stay tuned.