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NEWS RELEASE 98-004; FEBRUARY 5, 1998 February 5, 1998
News Release 98-004
Inv. No. 332-390

ITC LAUNCHES INVESTIGATION ON PROPOSED EXPANSION OF THE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AGREEMENT

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) is seeking input from industry officials, trade associations, and others for a factfinding investigation into the proposed expansion of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA).

The investigation, Advice on the Proposed Expansion of the Information Technology Agreement (Investigation No. 332-390), was requested by the United States Trade Representative (USTR).

The study, to be delivered in two phases, concerns the proposed modification of duties on certain information technology (IT) products that were listed in an attachment to the USTR's request letter. As requested by the USTR, in the first phase of its report, the Commission will provide detailed descriptions of the products on the list; the uses of these products relative to IT industries and consumers, as well as to non-IT industries and consumers; and the major producing countries, U.S. export markets, and sources of U.S. imports. In reviewing the products, the Commission will identify those products that are viewed as import sensitive by U.S. industry or other sources, as well as any similar products that could reasonably be expected to be included in the product groupings but are not. The Commission expects to submit the first phase of its report to the USTR by March 27, 1998.

As further requested by the USTR, in the second phase of its report, the Commission, to the extent possible, will analyze current tariff and nontariff trade barriers, if any; patterns of U.S. imports and U.S. exports; and increased opportunities resulting from proposed tariff modifications. The Commission expects to submit the second phase of its report to the USTR by May 1, 1998.

The ITA, concluded on July 1, 1997, eliminates tariffs among 43 trading partners on a wide range of information technology (IT) products, including computers, telecommunications equipment, semiconductors, and other electronic products. Early in the ITA process, the participants concurred that the agreement would be subject to review and expansion. At a March 26, 1997, meeting in Geneva, ITA participants agreed that this ongoing work, which is generally referred to as ITA-II, would begin in October 1997, and the results would be implemented beginning January 1, 1999.

On September 3, 1997, USTR published a notice in the Federal Register requesting comments on priorities for ITA-II, including suggestions for additional products for tariff elimination. In response, the USTR received a considerable number of suggestions for potential products, both finished products and IT inputs, from the U.S. private sector. In addition, the USTR received product suggestions from other ITA signatories. Negotiations on adding products to the ITA will take place this spring, and the USTR has asked the ITC to provide advice regarding a broad list of the proposed products prior to the conclusion of the negotiations. The President is required to obtain advice regarding such proposed actions from the Commission.

The ITC is seeking input for its investigation from all interested parties. A public hearing will be held on March 19, 1998, in connection with the investigation. Requests to appear at the hearing should be filed no later than 5:15 p.m. on March 9, 1998, with the Secretary, U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street, SW, Washington, DC 20436.

The ITC also welcomes written submissions for the record. Written submissions (one original and 14 copies) should be addressed to the Secretary at the address above and should be submitted at the earliest practical date but no later than 5:15 p.m. on March 24, 1998. All written submissions, except for confidential business information, will be available for public inspection.

Further information on the scope of the investigation and appropriate submissions, including the USTR's list of products involved in the investigation, is available in the ITC's notice of investigation, dated February 4, 1997, which may be obtained from the ITC Internet server (www.usitc.gov) or by contacting the Office of the Secretary at the above address or at 202-205-1802.

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