July 11, Colombo: As the World Trade Organization's landmark global Information Technology Agreement (ITA) completes its 20th anniversary, Sri Lanka will catch its first glimpse of the agreement in Colombo tomorrow.
Two high level representatives from the World Trade Organization (WTO) have arrived in Colombo especially to give a first-hand briefing to surging Lankan IT sector and firms, trade and policy officials, and other stakeholders on the landmark ITA's way forward for the country.
Senior Statistician-Market Access Intelligence Section of WTO Eric Shing and Counsellor of Market Access Division of WTO Xiaobing Tang will begin their Colombo briefings on Wednesday 12 July joined by Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen who is scheduled to launch the event at Hotel Taj Samudra.
Sri Lanka only has observer status and is not a signatory to the Information Technology Agreement which has made it easy to ship information and communication technology (ICT) products across borders.
ITA, concluded in 1996 and entered into force on 1 July 1997, aims to bring all taxes and tariff on information technology products (by signatory members) to zero. ITA membership that was at 29 when the members first met in Singapore in 1997, has, after twenty years of its existence to-date, increased to 82. In another landmark deal under ITA, in 2015 December, 53 WTO member countries (who claim 90% of world trade in IT products) agreed to eliminate tariffs on 201 IT products.
ITA's impact is vast-in that it is not only about IT products but covers intellectual property, trade rules, telecommunications and telecom satellites, medical equipment, GPS navigation systems, and even touch screens.
Sri Lanka is not a member of ITA yet and awaits to give its concurrence to join as domestic stakeholders need to be updated first on aspects and huge benefits of the Agreement. Wednesday's session in Colombo is expected to commence Sri Lanka's much awaited journey to join the landmark WTO ITA and reap the huge export and import benefits that it readily affords to the country's surging IT sector and related sub-sectors.