Full negotiations resumed yesterday (December 4) on how to expand the coverage of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA), a turn-of-the-century World Trade Organization pact under which 80 willing countries have eliminated customs tariffs on a host of state-of-the-art IT and communications products. As has been said, “The 21st century is the era of information and communication technology, and the ITA has played a vital role in promoting affordable access to those technologies.” The ethos is to remove barriers to trade in enabling technologies. As you know, our world has changed much since 1997 and even more products belong in the ITA, including industrial process control equipment and medical imaging. U.S. government negotiators are tireless champions of this initiative and I am hopeful that a final agreement will be announced soon.
The same ethos guides separate negotiations launched earlier this year by 14 parties to remove tariffs on products that help address and prevent environmental challenges. The third round of Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) talks was scheduled to conclude in Geneva, Switzerland, today. Building on a tariff-capping agreement reached for 52 products under the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, President Obama called in June 2013 for an international accord towards global free trade in environmental goods, including clean energy technologies. The EGA initiative was announced in January of this year and got underway in July.
NEMA and many member companies are especially intrigued by the next round of the EGA talks, scheduled for January 26-30, where energy-related and energy efficient products are scheduled to be discussed for the first time. NEMA is engaged actively in advising U.S. negotiators on opportunities and priorities to remove tariff barriers and ease – and even incentivize – trade in the highest efficiency motors and lighting products and specific types of energy management and control equipment. If the current pace is maintained, an EGA agreement could be concluded by the end of 2015.
The EGA represents a historic opportunity for governments, manufacturers, and environmental advocates to collaborate and remove barriers to deployment of advanced technologies that save energy.