MEPs back WTO deal to end customs duties on 201 high-tech devices

A WTO deal struck by the EU and 24 countries, including Japan, China, and the USA, to stop charging custom duties on trade in 201 different high-demand information technology products, such as video game consoles, medical imaging machines and touch screens, was backed by MEPs on Wednesday. The EU has signed the deal, but now has Parliament’s green light for it to enter into force.

“Through the revision and expansion of the Information Technology Agreement, now the new generation of modern IT products can also benefit from customs facilitation. This is an important milestone for the WTO, and Europe was the driving force for it. European companies are protected by these global trade facilitation measures from unfair competition.” said rapporteur Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl (EPP, DE). MEPs backed her consent recommendation by 529 votes to 110, with 37 abstentions.

The expanded World Trade Organization (WTO) Information Technology Agreement (ITA) is the biggest tariff-cutting deal in WTO history. It has been signed by 25 WTO members, with the EU counting as one. Australia, Canada, China, Japan, the USA, and South Korea are on board.

By joining the pact, members undertake to gradually eliminate customs duties on 201 listed information technology products, such as videogame consoles, GPS navigation systems, magnetic resonance imaging machines, telecommunications satellites, touch screens, and video cameras. Tariffs are to be reduced from 1 July 2016, and eliminated by 1 July 2019, with a more gradual phasing out of duties on imports that are sensitive for the EU industry (such as TV screens).

Note to editors

The value of the EU exports of products covered by the ITA is currently €189 billion. The EU Commission estimates the likely gain to EU exporters at €5 – 8.3 billion, including the benefits to EU industry of being able to import development hardware more cheaply.