The head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Friday urged WTO members to remain actively engaged on the negotiations over expansion of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA).
ITA, which was concluded in 1996, would provide for participants to completely eliminate duties on information technology (IT) products covered by the agreement.
As for the negotiations to update the product list over the past days this week, Roberto Azevedo, WTO Director-General, said on Friday that "the participants have significantly reduced the gaps on expanding the coverage of the ITA in recent days", but "it has not been possible to finalize the negotiations this week".
"I urge members to remain actively and constructively engaged as we try to bridge the gaps in these negotiations," said Azevedo in a statement.
The list of products covered by ITA has a large number of high technology products including computers, telecommunication equipment and semiconductors, but has not been updated since 1996 and does not cover many high-tech items common at present.
In the light of new technological developments, efforts have been underway since 2012 to extend the agreement to cover approximately 200 additional products, including many new generation communication, data and medical devices.
This week's talks, with a deadline artificially set on Friday, focused on the product expansion, but failed to reach a deal.
Statistics from WTO showed that the ITA currently has 52 participants, representing 80 WTO members (the 28 EU members are counted as one ITA participant), which account for around 97 percent of world trade in IT products.
The total amount of import duties eliminated under the ITA was estimated at 1.6 trillion U.S. dollars in 2013, said WTO.
The expanded ITA was estimated to cut tariffs on approximately 1 trillion U.S. dollars of trade each year and would therefore provide a significant economic boost around the world, as highlighted by WTO.
Moreover, the international trade watchdog stressed that the agreement governing the tariffs on this sector would benefit all WTO members, beyond the ITA participants, because the tariff cuts would be applied on a multilateral basis.