By eliminating tariffs in a great number of ICT goods, the 1997 Information Technology Agreement in the WTO has been a powerful tool for global economic integration, technological innovation and the spread of new technologies across the world. However, the ITA’s mechanisms to adapt it to technological change and to address behind-the-border barriers to trade in ICT goods, which are believed to be more harmful than tariffs, have failed. Twelve years into the agreement’s existence, these failures are an increasing burden on trade in a rapidly evolving sector. Frictions have emerged and led to a still ongoing dispute settlement case in the WTO on customs classification of multifunctional products. NTBs are a growing source of concern. One of the most pressing issues is the divergence of technical standards in a sector characterized by rapid innovation and the need for economies of scale to reap innovation’s full benefits.
In this seminar discussion, the panellists will discuss how NTBs in ICT goods affect international trade, and in particular the EU’s trade. It will discuss how these could be addressed in the ITA/WTO or otherwise. It will focus on technical standards, on the costs and benefits for the EU and its partners of seeking their harmonization and on how best go about it.