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
News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
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

IT Project manager - Web E-commerce

£65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...

Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits