Apec nearer end to information technology tariffs

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 October, 1996, 12:00am

A RADICAL proposal to abolish all tariffs on information technology products by the year 2000 is gaining growing acceptance among senior officials of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting in Manila.

The proposals had received a positive reaction, according to Antonio Basilio, deputy chairman of the fourth senior officials meeting yesterday. Their support for the principle did not necessarily mean that Apec members would collectively support the proposals at the World Trade Organisation summit in Singapore in December, he said.

A number of considerations had to be addressed, including the range of products, which could include computers and accessories, software and telecoms equipment.

It was also necessary to look at the requirements of countries which might not be able to meet a year 2000 deadline, he said. The meeting received revised individual action plans from eight Apec members, setting out their proposals for lowering or abolishing tariffs and other trade barriers.

Mr Basilio said the remaining 10 countries were expected to have submitted their own proposals by the end of the month. These will form the basis for the next phase of Apec tariff cutting programme, to be announced next month.

While leaked documents showed big differences between the changes members were prepared to support, Mr Basilio said the proposals so far received were bold and transparent and showed the way toward further liberalisation.

A decision to allow new members has been reached.

The officials of the 18 existing members have agreed there would be no repeat of the moratorium on membership imposed three years ago and which ends in November. That does not mean immediate entry for the 11 countries which have applied to join the group.

'The issue now is when do we accept new members,' he said. The new approach should be seen as encouraging by those waiting to join, he said.

Apec members make up about 56 per cent of the world's gross domestic product, 46 per cent of exports, and house 40 per cent of the world's population.

If all 11 candidates were allowed in it would substantially increase the influence of Apec, he said.

Criteria for membership would have to include geographic considerations, the relationships with existing members and a willingness to accept the free trade principles of the group, Mr Basilio said.

Those who have applied to join are India, Ecuador, Macau, Mongolia, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Panama.