EC looks to upgrade '96 tech-goods agreement

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The European Commission on Monday proposed renegotiating a 12-year-old, 70-nation deal that governs the global trade in MP3 players, set-top boxes, DVD players and other high-tech goods.

The information technology agreement scrapped customs duties on IT products but has not been updated since. The pact covers more than 97% of world trade in IT — a market worth $1.5 trillion annually, or a fifth of all global trade in goods.

The proposal to update the deal — lodged at the World Trade Organization in Geneva — also hopes to head off a WTO challenge by the U.S., Japan and Taiwan on EU tariffs covering television set-top boxes capable of accessing the Internet.

The EU has imposed a tariff as high as 14% on set-top box imports, arguing they are so new that they fall outside the scope of the ITA.

The agreement "risks being left behind after 12 years of technological development," EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said.

He added that IT products continue to face barriers like overly burdensome red tape to certify compliance. (partialdiff)
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