Stefan M. Selig is the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.
Today, representatives from 47 countries reached the first tariff-cutting agreement at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 18 years. After negotiating one of the largest agreements in recent history, the countries—including the United States, the EU, and Japan, among others—agreed to expand the scope of products that receive duty-free treatment under the WTO Information Technology Agreement (ITA). As a result, numerous countries will eliminate tariffs on roughly 200 information and communication technology (ICT) products which have a value of more $1 trillion in global trade.
I am proud to say that the International Trade Administration has played a critical role since the negotiations began. Our industry and policy experts helped shape U.S. negotiating proposals, reviewed hundreds of product proposals from other countries, delved into the commercial relevance for each item, and ensured that products exported by small- and medium-sized companies were factored into the mix.
The ITA expansion will open overseas markets for Made-in-America ICT exports without the imposition of costly and burdensome tariffs, and will support thousands of well-paying U.S. manufacturing and technology jobs. Last year, exports of goods and services directly and indirectly supported an estimated 11.7 million U.S. jobs, of which 6.2 million jobs were supported by manufactured products exports. We want to see these numbers continue to grow—and this agreement can help do just that.
The agreement today is a step in the right direction. Addressing barriers and opening markets, as the ITA expansion agreement will, are the central forces that drive President Obama’s trade agenda, which will spur economic growth, create jobs, and level the playing field for American businesses and their workers. This is why the United States has been a staunch supporter and leader in the effort to expand the product coverage of the ITA.
The Information Technology Agreement will provide new opportunities for U.S. companies, and the International Trade Administration is committed to helping U.S. firms reap the benefits of the agreement. Now, U.S. ICT companies will be able to export their products duty-free to some of the largest markets in the world including Canada, Malaysia, and China. Medical equipment, GPS devices, video game consoles, computer software, and next generation semiconductors are among the high-tech products that will see tariff elimination. These and other highly competitive U.S. ICT products worth over $100 billion will no longer face high tariffs in key markets.
For example, U.S. exports of loudspeakers face tariffs of up to 30 percent. Next generation semiconductors face tariffs of up to 25 percent, medical devices such as MRIs and CT scanners face tariffs up to 8 percent, and printed matter/cards to download software and games face tariffs up to 10 percent. And, in some countries, certain U.S. ICT exports are effectively shut out of the market because of those high tariffs. Thanks to the new agreement, all these tariffs will be reduced to zero.
I look forward to making sure these negotiating wins translate into meaningful commercial realities for U.S. firms. With more than 100 U.S. export assistance centers across our nation and staff in the ITA expansion agreement countries, the International Trade Administration stands ready to help U.S. ICT companies take advantage of the new opportunities from the expansion of the WTO Information Technology Agreement.