> Symposium on the 15th Anniversary of the Information Technology Agreement
The United States, also on behalf of other co-sponsors (Canada, Japan, Korea, Chinese Taipei and Singapore), introduced a concept paper calling for launching negotiations to expand the ITA (G/IT/W/36). It welcomed Malaysia and Costa Rica as the latest co-sponsors of the paper. The United States said that many stakeholders have been calling for expanding the product coverage of the ITA, and that it looked forward to discussing with other participants what product categories should be added to the current list.
Co-sponsors Canada, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Korea and Costa Rica also spoke in support of the concept paper. Australia, Israel, Peru and New Zealand spoke in favour of the paper.
The European Union welcomed and endorsed the concept paper, but said more precision was needed in the area of non-tariff measures. To ensure transparency, it said participants in the upcoming bilateral and plurilateral talks should provide progress reports at the next Committee meeting. The European Union also said it would no longer insist on a review of the ITA based on its proposal tabled in 2008, which linked ITA expansion with negotiations on non-tariff barriers.
El Salvador, also on behalf of Guatemala, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, stressed the need for transparency, inclusiveness and the granting of flexibilities to developing countries. This view was supported by India and Egypt.
The Chair, Mr. Zahari MD Ali (Malaysia), gave updated reports on other work programmes of the Committee: the EMC/EMI Pilot Project – Draft List of Types of Conformity Assessment Procedures for EMC/EMI used by ITA Participants; and Divergences in Classifying IT Products.
The Chair said that Montenegro, which had become the 154th member of the WTO, had committed itself to joining the ITA upon accession. He said that Montenegro's ITA schedule had been distributed to participants, and that if no objections are received, the country would become the 75th ITA participant on 30 May 2012.
The Russian Federation said it intended to fully join the ITA when it accedes to the WTO, and that with the help of the WTO Secretariat, it was now working on its draft ITA schedule.
The United States said it looked forward to reviewing Russia's schedule, and would help in ensuring Russia's participation in the Agreement. Chinese Taipei said it also looked forward to reviewing Russia's schedule.
The Chair reported that the just-concluded Symposium on the 15h Anniversary of the ITA was very effective in meeting its aims for reviewing trade in ITA products and obtaining the latest overview of IT developments.
He said that some of the important points raised in the symposium were: the ITA is clearly a success story but it needs to be updated; information technology has helped developing countries increase productivity; there were many calls for expanding ITA product coverage and membership as well as in dealing with non-tariff barriers.
Many delegations commended the successful organization of the Symposium. Thailand said the ITA must be expanded to help improve the livelihood of peoples around the world. Costa Rica said that it saw the ITA as a win-win experience, with its IT share in its exports rising from 5% to the current one-third.
Other participants supporting ITA expansion included Japan, Colombia, Canada, the EU, Korea, Chinese Taipei, Malaysia, Philippines, Israel, Singapore, Peru, Switzerland and Hong Kong, China.
At the end of the meeting, the Committee elected by acclamation Mr Aaron Fowler (Canada) as its new chair.
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