Ministers move to scrap hi-tech product tariffs

The US, Japan and the European Union took a big step yesterday towards removing tariffs on information technology products, and asked other nations to band together to open up the global industry, which generates annual sales of $600bn (pounds 363bn).

The agreement in principle to scrap tariffs was prepared by Quad, a forum comprising the EU, US, Japan and Canada, at a meeting of ministers of the World Trade Organisation in Singapore. While the final details remain to be agreed, the Quad will try to persuade 35 countries from Asia and other regions to join an Information Technology Agreement (ITA).

Sir Leon Brittan, EU Trade Commissioner, said yesterday: "It's not just a US-Europe deal. We're doing our damnedest to make it happen."

Computer and telecommunications companies from the US and Asia stand to profit if tariffs are reduced. Tan Kok Hin, managing director for South- east Asia at Compaq Computer, said: "It will definitely help our business. Tariffs are very high in some places."

EU tariffs on computer equipment are around 7 per cent, low compared to India where duties and taxes can add 40 per cent to prices.

A full ITA may not be signed until March to give countries more time to draft proposals. "The idea may be to have an agreement and then wait until March to see how many more countries can come on board," said Jean- Marie Noirfalisse, a Belgian trade negotiator.

Up to 30 of the 128 members of the World Trade Organisation are expected to sign the ITA. They including such Asian members as Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.

In 1995, Quad members Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore and China accounted for information technology exports worth $423bn.

EU ministers are considering the detailed list of technology products for the ITA. France and some other WTO members are concerned the ITO may exclude products such as fibre optics at the request of the US. Global fibre optics trade, dominated by New-York-based Corning company, is worth about $2bn a year.

Japan wants the inclusion of audio-visual products such as CD-ROMs, something the EU would like to exclude. Similarly, Japan is anxious to persuade its trading partners to leave out silicon components used to make semiconductors. Still, such disagreements appear unlikely to endanger the ITA. A trade official said Japan was willing to make compromises.

Backing from the US, Japan and the EU may not be enough, however, to produce an agreement to eliminate all tariffs by the year 2000 - the stated goal of the ITA talks. There is opposition from some Asian and Latin American nations, including India, Thailand and Malaysia, which want more time to develop home-grown industries.

"We didn't come here to discuss an ITA," said Rafidah Aziz, the Malaysian trade minister. "We'll come in [the ITA] when we're ready."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

Laura Norton: Project Accountant

£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable