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July 24, 2015

British tech hails $1tn IT trading deal

Industry warned that UK must invest or face ‘erosion of global position’.

By Jimmy Nicholls

The British tech industry hailed a potential windfall after the World Trade Organization (WTO) signed a deal that will cut tariffs on $1tn (£644bn) of the industry’s products.

Under the deal some 200 products will be added to the existing IT Agreement (ITA) that dates back 18 years, with products including semiconductors, GPS equipment and medical equipment, among other things.

David Evans, director of policy at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, said: "The big names touted as benefiting from the WTO deal tend to be US-based organisations, but we mustn’t forget that the UK is still a major exporter in IT products and services.

"As such, anything that benefits global trade in IT will likely benefit the UK, both as a consumer and exporter."

Evans added that the UK would still have to invest in the knowledge economy in the wake of the deal, particularly with the aim of encouraging more into the computing industry, but added a warning.

"If we fail to do so, then this deal will only accelerate the erosion of our global position," he said.

The update to the IT Agreement, originally in 1996, comes after three years of talks, suffering delays partly due to the Chinese leaving and rejoining the deal over concerns of competition from Japan and South Korea.

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Although the deal spans a mere 54 countries it will cover 90% of the trade in the electronics products added to the list, with savings from the deal said by the WTO to amount to $13.8bn, mostly affecting trade between Europe, North America and East Asia.

Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates, said: "Updating the ITA is great news for London’s tech sector, as ultimately the fluidity of exports and access to products provides the foundation for the industry as a whole.

"This change will have an impact at every level – ranging from the manufacturing process behind semiconductors to software design."

Roberto Azevêdo, director-general at WTO, described the "big deal" as "comparable to annual global trade in iron, steel, textiles and clothing combined."

The trading body confirmed to CBR that final details were currently being worked out, and more information would be released soon.

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