News / Economy

US Groups Expect WTO Technology Trade Deal by July

Roberto Azevedo, incoming head of the World Trade Organization [WTO], reacts during a meeting at the Finance Ministry in Brazil, May 21, 2013.Roberto Azevedo, incoming head of the World Trade Organization [WTO], reacts during a meeting at the Finance Ministry in Brazil, May 21, 2013.
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Roberto Azevedo, incoming head of the World Trade Organization [WTO], reacts during a meeting at the Finance Ministry in Brazil, May 21, 2013.
Roberto Azevedo, incoming head of the World Trade Organization [WTO], reacts during a meeting at the Finance Ministry in Brazil, May 21, 2013.
Reuters
— A deal among the United States, China, the European Union and nearly two dozen other countries to eliminate duties on billions of dollars worth of technology products could be reached in the next two months, U.S. technology groups said on Thursday.

“We're quite optimistic we're going to get this across the finish line by the end of July,” John Neuffer, a senior vice president at the Information Technology Industry Council, told reporters in a phone call from Geneva, where some members of the the World Trade Organization met this week for talks.

The countries are negotiating an expansion of the WTO's Information Technology Agreement, a 16-year-old pact that eliminated duties on a long list of technology products, including personal computers, laptops, telephones, fax machines, computer software, semi-conductors and many office machines.

Growing trade

The agreement's original membership has grown to 75 over the years, including the 27 nations of the European Union.

About $4 trillion in current trade is covered by the current pact, according to the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a Washington think tank that estimates an expanded agreement could cover $800 billion in additional trade.

U.S. consumer electronic companies are particularly eager to see the agreement expanded to cover flat-screen displays used both as computer monitors and for television viewing.

The European Union, which has a 14 percent tariff on flat-screen displays, has resisted included them on the expanded list, apparently fearing that it could prompt U.S. and Asian  manufacturers now based in Eastern Europe to relocate.

While computers were covered by the original agreement, television sets were not.

But now, “you can take a computer screen and watch TV on it and you can take a TV and access the Internet,” said Sage Chandler, director of international trade for the Consumer Electronics Association.

“We have had long discussions with Europe about this and we're hoping to move the ball forward,” said Chandler.

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