Asia-Pacific countries likely to lower IT tariffs

APEC members meeting in Manila are reported to be moving toward lower tariffs on IT products.

Members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation group are showing increasing support for lowering tariffs on IT products such as computers, software and telecommunications equipment, according to published reports.

A collective proposal worked out by the 18 members of the APEC group at their current meeting in Manila will be presented to the World Trade Organisation at its ministerial meeting in Singapore in December, the reports say.

The move toward liberalisation of trade in the region represents a victory for the US, the biggest member of the group and the member that has been pushing hardest for reduction or removal of tariffs. It contrasts with recent action on the other side of the globe, where the European Commission earlier this month raised tariffs on imports of networking equipment from 2% to 7.5%.

Asian nations produce a wide variety of IT products, mostly hardware ranging from logic and memory chips to PCs and supercomputers. They are largely importers of software and some telecommunications equipment.

Senior APEC officials have agreed with the US that low-cost access to IT products will be crucial for the region to maintain its competitiveness, the reports says. US officials are cited as saying that the tariff reductions will affect half of all US trade with Asia and about US$72 billion in US imports. The US imports twice as much IT equipment as it exports, one official says.

Besides the US, APEC includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.

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