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US tech, software industry cheers China IT trade deal progress

[WASHINGTON] US software and technology trade groups on Tuesday cheered a breakthrough in talks to eliminate duties on information technology products, saying a global IT trade deal would create jobs, boost US exports and help consumers.

China and the United States agreed to seek ways to cut global tariffs on medical equipment, GPS devices, video game consoles and other products, which US officials said should pave the way for a swift conclusion of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) later this year.

Trade group BSA / The Software Alliance said updating the current pact, which dates to 1997, would accelerate trade in the digital economy by bringing new products under the scope of the deal. "Updating the ITA to better account for these advances will remove tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of additional goods," BSA CEO Victoria Espinel said by email in response to a query.

The software industry, which employs about 2.5 million US workers and supports millions of other jobs, would have new export opportunities under an expanded IT pact, the Software & Information Industry Association said. "As tariffs on these products come down, it increases the global market for the software that underpins so many tangible goods in the modern economy," Carl Schonander, senior director of international public policy at the association, responded by email to a query.

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Among the likely winners would be US makers of semiconductors, medical products such as MRI and CT machines, and software and video game developers, said Stephen Ezell, senior analyst at the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation think tank. "It's a win-win trade agreement that will benefit information and communications technology manufacturers and services firms across the Americas, Europe, and Asia, while also benefiting all consumers globally and raising global GDP by as much as US$190 billion annually," he said by email.

The move was also welcomed by network equipment maker Cisco Systems, the Telecommunications Industry Association and US Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democrat, and Orrin Hatch of Utah, a Republican, the most senior members of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade. "Expansion of the Information Technology Agreement would be a big win for American manufacturers," Hatch said in an emailed statement.