New WTO Information Technology Agreement May Do Away With Duties

The imposition of duties on the global trade of technology products is significant from a monetary standpoint.

However, Reuters reports that a potential agreement among the United States, China, the European Union and almost two dozen other countries that could eliminate billions of dollars of such duties might be achieved as soon as within the next two months.

At issue is the negotiation of a possible expansion of the World Trade Organization’s Information Technology Agreement. The Agreement is a pact from the late 1990s that ended duties on a wide array of technology products. These products include laptops, computers, telephones, fax machines, software, semi-conductors and some office machines.

The Agreement’s original membership has expanded to 75 nations over time, including the various nations of the European Union. Still, that is not even 50% of the World Trade Organization’s 159 members. However, it does account for roughly 97% percent of worldwide trade in subject technology products.

The pact encompasses in the range of $4 trillion in current trade. It is reported that an expanded Agreement could cover $800 billion in additional trade. That is real money, obviously.

Additionally, U.S. companies are anxious to see the Agreement augmented to cover flat-screen displays for computer monitors and televisions. The European Union, has been reluctant in this regard, because it has a 14% tariff on flat-screens and likely is concerned that this could cause U.S. and Asian manufacturers currently based in Eastern Europe to move elsewhere.

Other products like speakers, headsets, and other electronic components also are sought to be included by the United States.

A number of members of the present Agreement, such as major nations India and Indonesia, have not entered into the fray with respect to the potential expansion of the pact.

It will be worthwhile to monitor developments in this area to see what unfolds.

Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please email him at with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual partners.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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