Plans to expand the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement (ITA) tariff elimination program might not come to fruition if Taiwan insists on including flat panels on the list, Minister of Economic Affairs John Deng (鄧振中) said yesterday.
Under the drafted agreement, flat panel is not listed as one of the tariff-exempt products.
“Taiwanese information technology products account for 5 to 7 percent of the export value of global information technology products, which makes Taiwan a critical player in the ITA negotiations,” Deng told reporters on the sidelines of a media event.
Last weekend, the US, China, South Korea and other WTO members reached a preliminary agreement in Geneva, Switzerland, to add 201 new IT items to the tariff-elimination list.
WTO members involved in the ITA talks have until noon tomorrow, Geneva time, to give their final approval to the additional items, Deng said.
“Only Taiwan has not agreed to the additional items,” Deng said, hinting that other 25 participating nations in the latest round of ITA talks are waiting for Taiwan’s response.
“If we don’t agree to the products, then the deal is over, and I believe many countries will be very unhappy with us.”
The ITA, which took effect in 1997, has not been renewed in the past 18 years.
The latest negotiations on increasing the list of products have continued on and off over the past three years, the minister said.
Global trade negotiators expect the expanded agreement to be concluded at the 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in December, hoping to see the expanded scheme take effect on July 1 next year at the earliest, he said.
“Many of the ITA members have approached Taiwan. They have tried to persuade us to give up on flat-panel products, but we need to discuss the issue with Taiwanese panel makers and evaluate whether it is worth insisting that flat panels be included, while ignoring the interests of other IT products,” Deng said.
He said Taiwan would enjoy tariff exemptions ranging from 80 to 90 percent for the 201 additional items, including components for LCDs, next-generation semiconductors, digital cameras, video recorders and global positioning system devices.
“We export US$10 billion worth of flat panels annually, but we export US$90 billion of other items that are to be included in the expanded ITA,” Deng said.
Once the expanded ITA takes effect, it could help Taiwanese companies save about US$1.14 billion in annual tariff expenses, he said.
Deng said he would personally talk to representatives of local panel makers, including AU Optronics Corp (友達光電) and Innolux Corp (群創光電), before the deadline tomorrow.
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