Conclude WTO agreement on IT to realize benefits of digital economy

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The FINANCIAL — The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is urging World Trade Organization members meeting in Nairobi this week to conclude an Information Technology Agreement that could inject up to US$190 billion into the global economy and advance international efforts to attain the United Nations (UN) sustainable development goals (SDGs).

As ministers meet in Kenya this week to salvage the Doha Round of trade negotiations, ICC is urging governments for a timely completion of the deal, the first WTO tariff elimination deal in close to two decades.

Acting on behalf of 6.5 million members in 130 countries, ICC is calling for expanded product coverage under the WTO Information Technology Agreement 2 (ITA2) and continued refrain from imposed customs duties on e-commerce. Under its World Trade Agenda initiative, in partnership with the Qatar Chamber, ICC has identified the ITA as a global trade priority for the private sector that could advance multilateral trade talks beyond the Doha Round, according to ICC.

John Danilovich, ICC Secretary General said: “Despite standstills in negotiations technology and high-tech products have continued to develop at a rapid pace, along with the business and organizational models that rely on them to thrive. The WTO ministerial is a real opportunity to make progress on this element of the global trade agenda that would reap the benefits of the digital economy and create significant boosts to international trade.”

Christoph Steck, an officer of the ICC Commission on the Digital Economy and Director Public Policy and Internet at Telefónica said: “The economy is the digital economy. Dropping barriers on high-tech products will not only benefit the ICT sector but raise significant cost saving opportunities for businesses of all sizes and sectors where these products are the backbone of supply chains and work force.”

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As the backbone of economies of all sizes, ICTs are increasingly recognized as key drivers of sustainable development. Four of the seventeen UN SDGs directly refer to the catalytic power of ICTs – though all of the goals rely in varying degrees on ICTs both connected over the Internet and in back end-systems.

“Cutting tariff barriers to an array of information and communication technologies (ICTs) products under ITA2 would secure long-term growth and send waves of encouragement to sustainable development initiatives worldwide. The use of ICTs holds tremendous promise for the 2030 development agenda and this is an opportunity the world cannot miss,” said Mr Danilovich.

On behalf of 6.5 members worldwide, the ICC World Trade Agenda promotes a global trade and investment agenda that moves talks beyond the Doha Round.

Other identified priorities for the private sector include:

1. Liberalizing trade in services

2. Multilateralizing trade liberalization under the WTO framework

3. Fostering ‘greener’ economic activity through trade

4. Moving towards a high-standard multilateral framework on investment

5. Reforming the WTO Dispute Settlement System


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