GENEVA/WASHINGTON: World Trade Organization (WTO) members met in Geneva on Friday trying to finalise a deal to cut tariffs on $1 trillion of information technology products from video games to medical equipment.
The United States said a deal had been struck, but WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo postponed a press conference at which he and the talks' chairman, European Union Ambassador Angelos Pangratis, had been due to announce the agreement.
"Some delegations needed more time to get full clearance from their capitals. They contacted the chairman Angelos Pangratis and he rescheduled the meeting for three hours later," WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell told Reuters.
Once finalised, the agreement to update the WTO's 18-year-old Information Technology Agreement (ITA) will add more than 200 products to the list of goods covered by zero-tariff and duty-free trade.
The U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said more than $100 billion of U.S. exports alone would be covered by the updated agreement and industry estimates showed the removal of tariffs could support up to 60,000 additional jobs.
"ITA’s expansion is great news for the American workers and businesses that design, manufacture and export state-of-the-art technology and information products, ranging from MRI machines to semiconductors to video game consoles," Froman said in a statement issued in Washington.
Azevedo said last week that the deal, which is the first tariff-cutting agreement in the WTO for 18 years, will jump-start the global economy.
"The trade covered in this agreement is comparable to annual global trade in iron, steel, textiles and clothing combined," he said.
Technology manufacturers like General Electric Co, Intel Corporation, Texas Instruments Inc, Microsoft Corp and Nintendo Co are among companies expected to benefit from the deal.
Additional duty-free products include computer software and software media, video game consoles, printer ink cartridges, GPS devices, medical devices such as MRI machines and next generation semiconductors, the Technology CEO Council said.
"That definitely impacts Intel and that’s important, but also as important are the other technologies that it covers that were not even dreamt of when the original ITA was negotiated," said Intel communications director Lisa Malloy.
"Things like ... health devices and GPS (are) technologies that semiconductors and Intel hope to power in the years to come."