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Goods and services | Brussels, 11 November 2014

Commission welcomes breakthrough in trade talks on Information Technology

Today, the US and China announced progress in solving remaining issues concerning the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA), a trade negotiation between 54 countries and of high importance to the EU.

The EU has been a constructive participant in the negotiations all along, and will continue working with the US, China and other participants of the trade talks to finalise the agreement and ensure the largest possible participation of other countries.

Commenting on this development, Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said: 'I welcome the progress in the trade talks on Information Technology. The EU has been a strong supporter of this deal and worked hard to find the best solutions for Europe, while at the same time bridging the positions of other participants. EU companies are at the forefront when it comes to the products covered by this deal and I intend to take all necessary steps to finalise the agreement in the coming weeks. This agreement would contribute to job creation and growth in Europe, and that is what EU trade policy is really about.'

The Commissioner also underlined: 'This progress has been made possible by the close cooperation between the EU and other partners throughout the negotiations. I now hope that it will give a boost to the multilateral trading system.'

The breakthrough was announced in Beijing on the margins of the APEC meeting.

The emerging list of products that will be covered by ITA include many high-end technology products in which the EU is very competitive, such as:

  • next generation semi-conductors ("multi component semiconductors" or MCOs), which are used in a multitude of electronic and informatics products, from computers to automated systems
  • medical equipment (e.g. magnetic resonance imaging or tomography apparatus)
  • advanced measuring and controlling instruments,
  • other electrical and electronic machinery and components, from smart phone or computer components to accessories for internet equipment.

This will be the biggest tariff agreement in the WTO since the conclusion of the ITA in December 1996. World exports in these products accounted in 2013 for €1,100 billion (close to 10 % of world trade), and the expansion is expected to increase the value of products covered by ITA by 70 %. EU exports in these IT products are estimated to be about €82 billion, and its imports account for €68 billion. The EU has a positive balance of €14 billion in trade in these products with the rest of the world. Tariff duties for all these products will be eliminated, increasing the competitiveness of EU exports and reducing prices for consumers.

Background note ITA

The Information Technology Agreement (ITA) is an agreement between 78 Members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which came into force in 1997. Currently 54 countries negotiate the expansion of this agreement.

ITA provides for participants to completely eliminate duties on IT goods, such as computers, telephones, digital cameras and their parts. The ITA has played a key role in the quadrupling of trade in the sector since 1997. Close to 10% of world trade is now covered by the ITA, making it the biggest plurilateral sectoral agreement in WTO.

In May 2012 a number of participants started negotiations to expand ITA to new products. These products include more advanced, new generation semi-conductors, electrical equipment, sophisticated medical devices and audio-visual products, such as monitors, TV-parts, DVD-players, loudspeakers and magnetic cards.

Since November 2013 the negotiations were suspended as participants failed to reach agreement on the list of products to be included in the deal. The breakthrough between US and China implies that negotiations in Geneva can resume in order to finalise the ITA-2 over the next few weeks.

For further information

EU Trade website on trade in goods and services

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström on Twitter