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The Value of an Expanded Information Technology Agreement

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“Inclusive trade” was the theme of last week’s annual WTO Public Forum in Geneva. The recently expanded Information Technology Agreement (ITA) represents a good example of an inclusive trade deal given the wide set of beneficiaries involved. The discussion served as a good reminder for the audience that the interests and benefits of free trade positively affect actors beyond the technology industry.

Signed late 2015, the ITA expansion agreement was the first tariff elimination deal struck at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 18 years. Intel and the wider global tech industry consider the expansion agreement as a welcome development. The expansion marks a major step in promoting the global trade of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) goods. But the biggest beneficiaries of lower tariffs on high-tech products are everyday users, from students to small businesses, both in developing and developed countries. Access to cheaper ICT goods encourages the use of technology which are vital pillars in the creation of a knowledge economy. The innovative capacity of individuals increases across the board in a society with enhanced ICT skills whether it be teachers, students of all ages, or those who teach the teachers.  In the long term, ITA empowers the formation of a global ICT supply chain as participating countries benefit both from cheaper imports of components and materials, as well as from exporting finalized products.

Intel took part in the WTO Public Forum working session ‘How ITA Expansion Benefits Consumers and SMEs: Spurring Innovation through Tariff Elimination’ and laid out the benefits of ITA. We chose Vietnam as a telling example of a developing country that has captured the attention of the ICT industry after joining ITA I. Vietnam is demonstrating solid growth and future potential, not in small part because of the business benefits brought about by ITA that helped trigger economic development. Intel’s decision to build a large assembly and testing facility in Vietnam is a good example of how a country can capture a part of the global ICT supply chain.

Intel has made it clear that this is about much more than manufacturing facilities. Supporting the wider knowledge economy in Vietnam, Intel works in collaboration with governments and educators to advance education and enable today’s youth to develop skills for lifelong success. We not only invest in people who help produce or supply our products, but we also invest in all future ICT users in the country.

But the job is not done - it is vital for developing countries like Vietnam to be serious about advancing their knowledge economies and sign up for the ITA expansion Agreement as a means for driving innovation and wider commerce on an international scale. The expansion Agreement contains the latest innovative products and is subject to a regular review ensuring it reflects the latest and future technological developments. It is encouraging to see that several developing countries are expressing interest in joining ITA expansion and we hope more will follow.
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