【英语中国】美国敦促中国重启IT免关税谈判 US urges China to revive tech trade talks

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2014-5-15 06:38

小艾摘要: The US has urged China to help revive talks to update the 1996 agreement governing the $2tn annual global trade in IT products amid warnings that a weekend meeting of Pacific Rim trade ministers risks ...
US urges China to revive tech trade talks
The US has urged China to help revive talks to update the 1996 agreement governing the $2tn annual global trade in IT products amid warnings that a weekend meeting of Pacific Rim trade ministers risks ending in embarrassing acrimony.

The call by Washington in the lead-up to the meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation ministers in the Chinese city of Qingdao is part of the strategic manoeuvring between the US and China over what role Beijing ought to play in global trade negotiations.

The US, EU and others have framed the Information Technology Agreement negotiations as a test case for China as it seeks to join much larger US-led discussions to set new global rules for the $4.6tn annual trade in services.

The ITA discussions, which are taking place under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation, are also being viewed as a test for the WTO as its members debate how to revive the stalled Doha round of negotiations. “If we can’t figure [the ITA] out then how can we figure out the bigger market access issues that are now again at the centre of the [WTO] agenda,” one Geneva-based trade official said.

Talks to update the ITA with 256 additional tariff-free product categories ranging from flat screen TVs to next-generation semiconductors broke down last November after China, which is now the world’s largest exporter of IT goods, sought to maintain its tariffs on more than 100 of those products.

Since then, people involved in the talks said, there had been little progress as some ministries in Beijing remained opposed to lowering tariff barriers and wanted to continue protecting local industries.

But the US is trying to use China’s leadership of this year’s Apec meetings as a way to put new pressure on Beijing to go back to the negotiating table and slash its list down to a more reasonable length.

Mike Froman, the US trade representative, said the ITA had begun life as an Apec initiative and remained high on the forum’s agenda. At their meeting in Bali last October, Apec leaders called for the “swift conclusion” of the ITA negotiations before a meeting of WTO trade ministers a few weeks later on the Indonesian island.

It was therefore natural for China as this year’s Apec host to help revive the talks, Mr Froman said.

“There is a real opportunity to make progress on [the] ITA, but at this point, it all turns on China,” Mr Froman said in an emailed statement. “As chair of Apec, China has a real opportunity to show leadership this week in pushing the ITA forward.”

A move by China on the ITA would send a positive signal over “its approach to international negotiations generally”, he added. It would also help build support in the US for bilateral investment negotiations with Beijing now getting under way.

One person familiar with Beijing’s negotiating position said China was opposed to an expansion of the list to include certain products, such as various types of medical equipment. The Ministry of Commerce did not reply to a request for comment.

Other Apec countries are also applying pressure on China. At a meeting of WTO ambassadors from Apec nations in Geneva last week, countries including Australia, Canada and Japan joined the US in pushing for the trade ministers to express “extreme disappointment” in their closing statement on Sunday if no progress is made on the ITA, according to people close to the negotiations. China is eager not to see that language included, they said.

The US call came as a coalition of IT industry groups from around the world urged the Apec trade ministers to focus on relaunching the ITA talks during their meeting in Qingdao.

John Neuffer, head of global policy for the Washington-based Information Technology Industry Council, said the ITA discussions had almost succeeded last year and only a final push was needed.

“In my view we are one week of talks in Geneva away from closing this thing out. But to get to that one week of talks we need China,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Tom Mitchell)

美国敦促中国帮助重启相关谈判,以更新涉及每年2万亿美元全球IT产品贸易的1996年协议。目前有人警告,太平洋周边国家贸易部长将在周末召开的会议可能在不和气氛中结束。

华盛顿在亚太经济合作组织(APEC)贸易部长会议在中国青岛开幕之前发出这一呼吁,这是美中之间围绕北京在全球贸易谈判中应当发挥什么作用展开战略过招的一部分。

美国、欧盟和其他方面将《信息技术产品协议》(Information Technology Agreement,简称ITA)谈判视作一块考验中国的试金石,因为中国正寻求加入美国主导的规模大得多的磋商,这项磋商的目的是为每年4.6万亿美元的服务贸易确定新的全球规则。

在世界贸易组织(WTO)的主持下展开的ITA讨论,也被视为WTO面临的一个考验,目前其成员国正在辩论如何重启陷入僵局的多哈回合贸易谈判。“如果我们搞不定ITA,那我们怎么去解决目前再度处于WTO议程中心的扩大市场准入问题?”一位驻日内瓦的贸易官员问道。

更新ITA、使其增添256个免税产品品类(从平板电视到下一代半导体)的谈判,在去年11月破裂,原因是目前全球最大的IT产品出口国中国寻求保持针对其中100多种产品的关税。

参与谈判的人士表示,自那以来进展甚微,因为北京的一些部委仍反对降低关税壁垒,希望继续保护本土产业。

但美国正试图利用中国是今年APEC轮值主席国的事实,对北京方面施加新的压力,要求其重返谈判桌,并将其希望保持关税的产品清单缩短至比较合理的长度。

美国贸易代表迈克?弗罗曼(Mike Froman)表示,当年ITA是作为亚太经合组织的一个倡议诞生的,并继续在这个论坛的议程上占据重要位置。APEC领导人去年10月在巴厘岛开会时,曾呼吁赶在WTO贸易部长数周后在这个印尼岛屿开会之前,“迅速完成”ITA谈判。

弗罗曼称,因此,中国作为今年APEC会议的主办国,顺理成章地有责任帮助恢复谈判。

“现在有一个真正的机会在ITA上取得进展,但就目前而言,一切都取决于中国,”弗罗曼在一份电子邮件声明中表示。“作为APEC轮值主席国,中国有一个真正的机会在本周展现领导力,推动ITA取得进展。”

他补充称,中国在ITA上有所作为,将发出一个有关“其对国际谈判的总体姿态”的积极信号。这也将有助于在美国为美中正在展开的双边投资谈判争取支持。

熟悉北京方面谈判立场的一名人士称,中国反对将免税产品清单扩大到包括某些产品,如各类医疗器材。中国商务部没有回复记者的置评请求。

APEC其他国家也在向中国施压。知情人士称,上周APEC成员国的WTO大使在日内瓦开会时,澳大利亚、加拿大和日本等国家加入美国的行列,要求各国贸易部长在ITA谈判不能取得进展的情况下,就在周日的闭幕声明中表达“极度失望”。他们称,中国很不希望在声明中看到那样的措辞。

美国发出呼吁之际,世界各地IT行业组织的一个同盟敦促APEC贸易部长们在青岛会议上专注于重启ITA谈判。

总部位于华盛顿的信息技术产业理事会(Information Technology Industry Council)的全球政策主管约翰?纽佛(John Neuffer)表示,ITA谈判去年功亏一篑,现在只需要一个最后冲刺。

“在我看来,只需在日内瓦进行一周谈判,就能完成这件事。但要展开这一周谈判,我们就需要中国配合,”他说。

(汤姆?米切尔补充报道)

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