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In December 1996, representatives from twenty-eight countries announced an agreement to eliminate tariffs on specified information technology products by the year 2000. However, the momentum toward an expanded Information Technology Agreement (ITA-2) has slowed considerably. Negotiations seem destined to go the way of the early, voluntary sectoral liberalization process, which stalled and was rolled up into the upcoming multilateral round of negotiations.
When the first ITA was negotiated, the vast potential of information technology was largely an article of faith. There was little data to buttress the claim that free trade in IT products and services is an important enabler of technological diffusion and economic progress. Despite the lack of proof, negotiators took the plunge anyway. Today, there is a growing body of evidence that the production and use of IT goods and services can have outsized economic benefits and that market opening in the IT sector can help countries obtain these benefits more quickly.
Armed with these facts, negotiators from the world's IT producers have all the information they need to do the right thing: commit themselves to reinvigorating the ITA process and completing an agreement before the Seattle WTO ministerial meeting begins in November.