RealTime IT News

IT Trade Groups Praise Free Trade Agreement

President Bush's Tuesday signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) with Singapore is drawing praise from the IT industry, including the U.S. High-Tech Trade Coalition and the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI). The deal, the first FTA between the U.S. and an Asian nation, removes tariffs on trade between the countries.

With two-way trade totaling $32 billion in 2002, Singapore is America's 11th largest trading partner. High-technology trade between the U.S. and Singapore represents approximately half of total two-way trade. Last year, the U.S. exported nearly $6 billion in high-technology goods to Singapore.

The agreement, signed by Bush and Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in a White House ceremony, is still subject to approval by Congress.

According to the High-Tech Trade Coalition, whose trade association members include the Business Software Alliance and the Information Technology Association of America, the FTA provides "precedent-setting benefits to the high-tech industry in areas such as e-commerce, services, and intellectual property rights."

The FTA introduces the concept of digital products and provides broad national treatment and most favored nation commitments so products sold electronically by U.S. exporters receive fair and non-discriminatory treatment. It confirms that services commitments extend to services delivered electronically, and establishes permanent duty-free status for these products.

The deal also sets out standards of protection and enforcement for copyrights and other intellectual property yet to be achieved in a bi-lateral or multi-lateral agreement, treaty or convention. It builds on the protection standards currently in the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the NAFTA, and incorporates obligations set out in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) copyright treaties, requiring Singapore to ratify and fully implement these obligations within one year.

"This agreement will stimulate trade between the U.S. and Singapore, open markets to U.S. high tech exports of goods and services, and strengthen the U.S. position as a global leader in trade," said Rhett Dawson, president of ITI.

As the first FTA to be considered under Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) procedures, which were supported by ITI and passed by Congress last year, the ITI said in an statement "bipartisan approval of the U.S.-Singapore FTA will be an important step towards rebuilding a pro-trade consensus in Congress."

ITI member companies provided recommendations and counsel to the United States Trade Representative during the two-year negotiating process of the U.S.-Singapore FTA. ITI members include AOL Time Warner, Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Cisco and Dell.