【News】 WTO members urge China, South Korea and Taiwan to agree on expanding zero-tariff digital products (May 13, 2015)


Satoko Adachi – Geneva

Amid unclear prospects over negotiations to eliminate tariffs on additional high-technology products under the World Trade Organization, industrialized countries such as Japan, the United States and the European Union are stepping up pressure on China, South Korea and Taiwan to come to agreement on the list of items.

They are eager to settle the negotiations on the expanded Information Technology Agreement (ITA) before the summer break in order for member countries to conclude the talks at its ministerial meeting scheduled in Nairobi in December.

However, the talks remain stalled after South Korea and Taiwan expressed opposition to an agreement reached between the U.S. and China late last year which left LCD panels out of the ITA.

At the ITA committee meeting held on Friday, May 8, Japanese negotiators reportedly pointed out five months have passed since the negotiations stranded. They called on participating countries to aim for a political settlement on a ministerial level, as trade ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum will meet in the Philippines on May 23 and 24, and a ministerial meeting of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development is scheduled on June 3 and 4 in Paris.

U.S. negotiators also said the IT industry in the U.S. is becoming frustrated. Some industry officials wonder how the countries can settle the Doha Round of trade liberalization talks if they cannot even agree on expanding the ITA, they said, telling China, South Korea and Taiwan that they are reaching the limits of their patience.

In response, South Korean negotiators went only as far as saying there are not so many challenges left to overcome, adding that an agreement is within a hand’s reach. Meanwhile, Chinese negotiators said they have been engaged in harsh negotiations with the domestic industry, claiming that it is not right to always ask the same country to make a compromise. They refused to back down, saying participating countries should focus on the list of products already on the negotiation table rather than pushing others to accept unrealistic proposals.

(May 13, 2015)

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