RealTime IT News

Ag Proposal Could Benefit IT Trade Talks

The technology industry hopes a U.S. proposal to cut farm subsidies will break a logjam bottlenecking overall World Trade Organization (WTO) talks, which include opening up the global IT marketplace.

With just two months left to conclude a WTO treaty that began with negotiations in Doha, Qatar, four years ago, the issue of agricultural subsidies and tariffs is threatening to collapse all other trade issues.

On Monday, U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman proposed in Zurich that the United States is willing to cut farm subsidies by 60 percent if the European Union and Japan also slash subsidies.

"Our ambitious initiative demonstrates a seriousness of purpose," Portman said Monday. "The United States is committed to breaking the deadlock in multilateral talks on agriculture and unleashing the full potential of the Doha round."

Portman added, "Our time is short. I urge all of us to redouble our efforts and maximize the nine weeks left before the WTO [meeting] in Hong Kong."

Portman's proposal drew praise from two high-tech industry trade organizations in Washington.

"We applaud [Portman] for taking an important step to end the current impasse over agriculture," Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), said in a statement. "This important action moves us towards WTO agreements that advance the global marketplace for IT products and services."

Rhett Dawson, president of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), also praised Portman's efforts.

"The deadlock over agriculture has impeded efforts to keep the negotiating process moving forward in other critical areas," he said in a separate statement. "[The] agriculture proposal creates renewed hope for early and meaningful progress in the Doha round."

Both the ITAA and the ITI want to push the Doha round negotiations to eliminate tariffs and non-tariff barriers on electronics. According to Dawson, technology convergence is blurring the original trade lines between personal and professional use of information technology.

As examples, he cited all-in-one machines that print, copy and fax, along with LCD screens used in television sets.

"The U.S. has stepped up to the plate [to break the agricultural deadlock]; now it's up to our trading partners to seize the opportunity," Dawson said. "There is little time to spare and much at stake. A quick and serious response from our trading partners means we can move forward and address barriers in other sectors, such as electronics."

Dawson also noted that there has been an increase in non-tariff trade barriers to IT products, such as technical regulations and procedures.

According to an ITI statement, "As a result, market access for IT products around the globe is being hindered by outdated rules that haven't kept pace with technology innovation."