Acknowledging the importance of technology products to the development of information industries and the dynamic expansion of the world economy, the "Ministerial Declaration on Trade in Information Technology Products" ("ITA") was concluded by 29 participants at the Singapore Ministerial Conference in December 1996. The number of participants has grown to 70, representing about 97% of world trade in information technology products. The ITA provides for participants to completely eliminate duties on IT products covered by the Agreement.
The Declaration's intention was to achieve maximum freedom of world trade in information technology products and to encourage continued technological development on a world-wide basis. Signatories agreed to bind and eliminate customs duties and other duties and charges on a wide range of products.
In the Declaration, it is stated that the elimination of customs duties was envisaged to take place in four stages, with the final stage being completed no later than January 1, 2000, unless otherwise agreed among participants. Some countries were granted extended staging beyond 2000, but in no case later than 2005.
The products covered by the Declaration include semiconductors, telecommunication products, scientific instruments, computer software and semiconductor manufacturing equipment. Semiconductors include chips and wafers of various size and capacity. Telecommunication products include telephone sets, radio-broadcasting and television transmission and reception apparatus, pagers, videophones, fax machines, switching apparatus, and modems.
Scientific instruments include measuring and checking devices, cromatographs, spectrometers, optical radiation devices, and electrophoresis equipment. Computers include CPUs, keyboards, printers, monitors, scanners, and hard disk drives.
Software refers to the media on which the software is contained, such as diskettes, magnetic tapes and CDs, which is the way in which software is classified under the Harmonized System of tariff nomenclature.
Semiconductor manufacturing equipment includes a wide variety of equipment and testing apparatus used in the production of semiconductors. Finally, a range of products covered that do not fit into any of the above categories include word processors, calculators, cash registers, ATM machines, certain static converters, indicator panels, capacitors, resistors, printed circuits, conductors, optical fiber cables, photocopiers, computer network equipment, and flat panel displays.
This long, but still non-exhaustive list provides some idea of how wide-ranging the ITA is in terms of product coverage.
Changes to the ITA are currently being negotiated.
- See, e.g., Eric J. Sinrod, "New WTO Information Technology Agreement May Do Away With Duties" (June 4, 2013) (full-text).
- Electronic Commerce and the Role of the WTO, at 46-47.