China is again resisting calls to reduce tariffs on a wide range of IT products it imports, threatening efforts to update the 1996 international agreement governing trade in electronic goods.
Negotiators from more than 50 countries involved in 97 per cent of the global trade in IT products are seeking to update the Information Technology Agreement by removing tariffs on a swath of products not foreseen in the 1996 deal. They are hoping to unveil it at next month’s WTO ministerial meeting in Bali.
The ITA negotiations have also become a litmus test for China, which is the world’s biggest exporter of IT products, and how it engages in plurilateral trade negotiations.
Beijing is seeking to join the much bigger, and potentially more complex, US-led talks to update the rules governing the $4tn annual trade in services globally.
However, the US and others have pointed to what they see as China’s obstructionist behaviour in the ITA talks as a cautionary tale for the services talks.
The ITA talks first broke down in July over China’s decision to exclude more than 100 products from the 256-product list at the centre of the negotiations. They resumed last week after the US and others involved said they had received assurances from China that it was prepared to reduce the list of excluded products substantially. But China surprised many by not taking part in last week’s talks and also cancelled a series of meetings with other countries, according to people close to the negotiations in Geneva. It also failed to submit a new proposed list before the talks began.
When other countries involved pressed the Chinese on Monday, negotiators for Beijing finally submitted their list, trade officials said. But the updated list included only a few minor tweaks, and negotiators for other countries said the talks now appeared at risk unless Beijing was prepared to make significant concessions and engage more actively.
While China’s tough position might be expected in a negotiation, trade officials involved said its behaviour had been out of the ordinary. Yu Jianhua, China’s deputy international trade representative, flew to Geneva and had scheduled meetings to discuss the ITA negotiations with other participants last week. But the bulk of those meetings were cancelled.
“We have a situation today where there is just a broad frustration that China is not ready to negotiate this,” said one senior trade official involved in the talks. “They are the world’s biggest beneficiary of IT exports. Other people look at that and say there’s got to be a little bit of reciprocity there.”
The talks are scheduled to conclude today but are now likely to be extended. Negotiators insist a deal needs to be done this week to have it ready to be presented to ministers in Bali.
John Neuffer, senior vice-president of global policy at the Information Technology Industry Council, which represents big tech companies such as Microsoft and Sony, said the Chinese manoeuvring appeared to be part of a negotiating ploy. “They are continuing to play hardball and seeking maximum leverage by being tough and running the clock out,” he said.
“Everyone is like fish moving around an immovable pier. They are making as much compromise as they can without the Chinese at the table,” he said.
“China has got to be part of this. They are too big a player. You can’t have an outcome without the Chinese.”
中国再度抵制降低多种信息技术(IT)产品进口关税的呼吁，这一立场威胁着更新国际社会1996年达成的《信息技术产品协议》(Information Technology Agreement,简称ITA)的努力。
代表微软(Microsoft)和索尼(Sony)等大型科技公司的信息技术产业理事会(Information Technology Industry Council)负责全球政策的高级副总裁约翰?纽佛(John Neuffer)表示，中方的行为似乎是谈判计谋的一部分。“他们在继续采取强硬方式，摆出强硬姿态，拖延到最后一刻，以求获得最大优势，”他表示。