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WTO negotiators agree tariff cuts on more IT products

US Trade Representative Michael Froman speaks during a Trade and Competitiveness Forum at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

[NEW YORK] World trade negotiators seeking to eliminate tariffs on information technology (IT) products agreed over the weekend to expand the list of items covered.

Participants said the 54 nations had struck a tentative deal to expand to about 200 the IT products on which tariffs would be dropped. The list had an annual trade value of some US$1 trillion, the World Trade Organization said late on Saturday.

The United States, China, Japan and others had been meeting at a European Union mission in Geneva and aimed to finalise the so-called Information Technology Agreement by Friday.

The US Trade Representative, Michael Froman, called the deal a "major breakthrough" in talks, while WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo tweeted there was a "basis for an agreement,"adding he was "very optimistic that we'll have a final successful deal by the end of next week." Products on the list include semiconductors, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, global positioning system (GPS) devices, loudspeakers and video game consoles.

The Semiconductor Industry Association estimated the deal would boost global gross domestic product by about US$190 billion a year, adding that negotiators also drafted timelines to phase out tariffs for products that will not immediately go to zero-duty.

Negotiators, who met from July 14 to 18, expect their respective governments will sign off on the deal by Friday.