The Information Technology Agreement: Sui Generis or Model Stepping Stone?
The Information Technology Agreement signed in 1996 is a unique trade agreement. At initial negotiation, it included less than 10 countries, by inception it ‘multilateralized’ to 44 countries and now includes 70 (of the 151) WTO members. At inception, negotiated product coverage was broad and generalized, rather than achieved via ‘request-offer’ by tariff line; it now covers 97% of trade in IT products. At inception, the signatories agreed to a timetable and specific staged tariff reductions to achieve zero tariffs on all covered products; only a few signatories asked to deviate from that common schedule. By all accounts, the agreement achieved its goals of zero tariffs and multilateral, most-favored nation treatment for a very broad range of IT products. Has it similarly promoted other measures of economic success such as trade growth or economic-well-being, particularly as differentiated between signatories and non-signatories? Does the ITA offer a template that can be replicated across other sectoral agreements or regional or bilateral agreements, or is there something unique about the negotiations (time and venue) and products that make the ITA sui generis—a thing unto itself?
Xuepeng Liu and Catherine L. Mann, The Information Technology Agreement: Sui Generis or Model Stepping Stone?" In Richard Baldwin and Patrick Low (Eds.), Multilateralizing Regionalism. Cambridge University Press, 2009.