Report: Possibilities for an Expansion of the WTO Information Technology Agreement, ITA3

The ITA3 could contribute to several of the sustainability goals in Agenda 2030 and reduce the digital divide.

Maria Johem Senior adviser

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The Information Technology Agreement (ITA) is one of the WTO's most successful agreements and has led to the elimination of tariffs for many products. However, even more goods could be included in the ITA, including 3D printers, drones and smart wearables that can improve health or warn of risks. This has been shown in a new report by the National Board of Trade Sweden.

Maria Johem, what are the advantages of the Information Technology Agreement?

The original ITA agreement means that a large number of goods, for example, computers and mobile phones, are covered by zero tariffs based on the MFN-principle, without burdensome rules of origin when they are imported into a country that is part of the agreement.

The original Information Technology Agreement from 1996 was expanded in 2015 and is sometimes referred to as ITA2. ITA2 is also a successful agreement, but the number of participating countries is significantly fewer, compared to the original agreement.

You have now investigated whether the agreement could be further extended. What products have you been looking at?

In this report, we have examined the need for an ITA3 in a few specific areas: Agriculture, renewable energy, medical technology and recycling. We chose these areas as digitalisation is moving at a fast pace and the increased use of digital technology can lead to increased sustainability.

So what did you conclude – is another Information Technology Agreement needed?

Yes, there are several examples of products related to digital technology that are not covered by the ITA and ITA2, but are still of great importance to the spread of digitalisation. These include, for example, robots used in agriculture, recycling machines, 3D printers and smart wearables that can improve health or warn of risks.

Tariff elimination on these goods, could contribute to reduced costs for digital tools and increased digital development. The ITA3 could contribute to several of the sustainability goals in 2030 Agenda and reduce the digital divide.

If the products you point to were included in a new ITA3, how could this affect prices?

The original ITA made computers and solar panels less expensive. This will hopefully be the same for products that may be included in a possible new extended agreement (ITA3).

How do you think the WTO and other actors should approach this issue?

The most important thing is that WTO member countries realise there is a need to discuss this issue further. We propose, for example, that the question of the ITA3 should be up for discussion at future meetings of the WTO's ITA Committee in Geneva. There is also a need for increased commitment from the business world regarding this matter.

We also note that several products that are important for agriculture, renewable energy, medical technology and recycling are already covered by either the ITA or ITA2. It is therefore important to continue to raise awareness of the existing agreements among those WTO members who have not yet acceded to these agreements.