Significant reductions in tariff and non-tariff barriers to improve market access and the simplification and harmonisation of international trade procedures are needed to ensure that Irish ICT companies can compete effectively on the global stage.
This call was made by tech sector lobby group ICT Ireland ahead of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations that start today in Cancun, Mexico.
“ICT Ireland is concerned at the significant number of obstacles facing the ICT sector in the free flow of its goods and services globally despite the obligations contained in the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement),” commented Richard Sicard, chairman of the ICT Ireland trade group and EMEA senior trade manager at Microsoft. “Regulatory and other non-tariff barriers are becoming one of the main obstacles in this regard and therefore need to be an essential element of any proposal to improve market access for ICT products.”
He continued: “At present, levy tariffs of 15pc and higher are charged on IT goods and services exported to the majority of countries in Latin America, south-east Asia and Africa. Coupled with this, ICT companies are often faced with difficulties in getting goods through customs, unfair or unclear rules for valuation of goods at customs, lack of transparency in licensing regulations, compulsory technology transfer and duplicative testing and certification requirements. These are major impediments to market development by Irish ICT companies at a time when the industry needs to expand new market opportunities more than ever,” he said.
The lobby group also recommended a number of specific initiatives that would free up trade. These include: an extension of the product and country coverage under a WTO agreement; the elimination of nuisance tariffs (those under 4pc); the global implementation of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement in addition to a faster adaptation of TRIPs to keep in pace with technological developments; and the proper classification of ICT goods and services.
It also called for greater application of technology to facilitate cross-border trade. “The losses that the ICT sector suffer through delays at borders, unclear and often redundant documentation requirements and lack of automation of trade procedures are no longer acceptable. Given the growth in trade globally and availability of world-class technologies, the use of such technologies needs to be used as a catalyst to accelerate the simplification and harmonisation of international trade procedures and reduce the so-called digital divide between borders,” stated Sicard.
ICT Ireland strongly supports the Doha round of negotiations in the WTO as the best way to progress on global trade liberalisation. The group will be represented at the Cancun negotiations by Terry Landers, head of corporate affairs at Microsoft Ireland.
By Brian Skelly