The U.S., China and the EU are expected to sign up this week to what would be the biggest tariff agreement struck at the World Trade Organisation in almost two decades, after a weekend breakthrough that clears the way for barriers to be dropped globally on more than 200 types of high-tech products.
Negotiations over the 1996 Information Technology Agreement have been stalled since last November when US President Barack Obama announced a breakthrough in negotiations with China.
That U.S.-China agreement, however, prompted fresh standoffs between China and South Korea and China and the EU that until this weekend have prevented what the global tech industry sees as a badly needed and long-delayed update to the rules governing the trade in everything from video game consoles to semiconductors.
In a deal hashed out on Saturday, the U.S. agreed to grant further small concessions to China in order to help both South Korea and the EU secure their own deals with Beijing.
The new compromise brokered by the U.S. and WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo is due to be brought to the capitals of the 80 governments involved in the ITA discussions for approval before a Friday deadline. With all of the remaining major players involved in the weekend breakthrough, people close to the negotiations said that deadline was now largely procedural.
"We are confident that all parties will now give formal approval to their participation in what would be the first tariff-elimination deal at the WTO in 18 years," US Trade Representative Michael Froman said.