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China | Brussels, 21 November 2013

Talks on IT products at a critical point - EU calls on China to withdraw excessive requests for exclusions

The negotiations on the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) have reached a critical stage. The main outstanding issue is China’s request for the exclusion of a large number of IT products from trade liberalisation.

"The EU regrets that China has so far been unable to contribute to the negotiations of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) in a way that is consistent with China’s position as the largest world exporter of IT products", said EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. "I call on China to urgently withdraw its excessive requests for exclusions of IT products from the negotiations, so that the talks can resume. We cannot afford to lose the momentum for a deal which would liberalise over €1 trillion of trade, corresponding to 7 % of total world trade in goods."

Background

During last week and this week the EU has been hosting the negotiations on the expansion of the ITA. Important progress has been made as most of the participants have been positively and constructively contributing to reach compromises, and an agreement has come within reach. It would liberalise trade in some 200 IT products, with a value of over 1 trillion € of yearly world trade - the most valuable agreement concluded in the WTO for over 15 years. Only a few outstanding but solvable issues are left. The main obstacle to conclude the negotiations is a request from China to treat as sensitive 141 products, and of these to exclude altogether from the liberalisation 59 important products. The EU and other participants, whilst showing willingness to accept a large number of China’s requests, have been asking China to substantially reduce its request.

The EU, along with other ITA participants, considers that a deal cannot be reached on that basis as it would be imbalanced. If China’s requests were accepted, the list of products to liberalise would contain a very large number of products of important export interest to China, including quite a number of them which are sensitive for the EU, but many products of export interest for the EU would be excluded. The EU considers that it is reasonable to expect from the world’s largest IT exporter that they can agree to liberalise not only the products of interest to them but also those of interest to the rest of the ITA Members. The EU calls on China to reconsider its position in a way that will enable the conclusion of a major trade liberalising agreement. Such an agreement would not only be a major contribution to trade and innovation, but also reinforce the standing and role of the WTO as an engine of trade liberalisation, something on which both the EU and China share a common view an interest.

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