Industry groups call on Vice-Premier Wang to push tech trade accord

Letter to ask Wang Yang to help push agreement to lift tariffs on selected technology products

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 July, 2013, 3:56am

Industry groups from around the world are set to call on Vice-Premier Wang Yang in a bid to convince China to back a global initiative to eliminate tariffs on a range of information and communications technology products.

The Information Technology Industry Council, an advocacy group based in the United States, has drafted a "global industry letter" addressed to Wang that is expected to be sent this week, with the support of dozens of concerned trade associations worldwide.

In a message sent to Hong Kong technology associations on Friday, John Neuffer, the council's senior vice-president for global policy, said: "To help advance the talks, we felt a letter from global industry to senior leadership in Beijing would be helpful."

Wang was part of a high-level Chinese delegation that met United States President Barack Obama and other officials in Washington earlier this month for the latest round of the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

China drew heavy criticism from the US and other trading partners last week for derailing talks to expand the scope of the Information Technology Agreement, a tariff-cutting mechanism established by a group of World Trade Organisation members in December 1996.

International trade negotiators were in Geneva last week for what many hoped would be the final round of talks to eliminate tariffs on about 260 products, which would form part of the "core list" of products covered by the agreement.

But China asked for 106 products to be removed from the discussions as part of Beijing's "sensitivities list", which included goods it wanted to maintain tariffs on. That prompted last Thursday's abrupt suspension of the ITA negotiations.

The global industry letter, a copy of which was obtained by the South China Morning Post, urged Beijing "to take this pause in negotiations to seriously consider a significant reduction of China's sensitivities list, both qualitatively and quantitatively, and quickly return to the negotiating table with a list that will act as a catalyst … to a strong conclusion this year".

"Given that it took 16 years to get to this point, there is no assurance that we will have another opportunity to expand the ITA again anytime soon," the letter said.

It also pointed out that "ITA expansion would add US$190 billion to global GDP annually".

Plenty has changed in the information and communications industry since the ITA took effect in 1996.

Its "core list" did not cover recent innovations, including video-game consoles, DVD and Blu-ray players, audio speakers, media tablets, smartphones and even a new class of chips called multi-component semiconductors.