The European Union, the United States, China and the vast majority of the World Trade Organization (WTO) members that were participating in the negotiations agreed on 24 July to eliminate custom duties on 201 high-tech products. The extension of the 1996 Information Technology Agreement (ITA) is the biggest tariff-cutting deal in the WTO in almost two decades. The agreement initiated and brokered by the EU, will benefit both consumers and firms alike by removing customs duties on a wide range of goods, including medical equipment, video games and consoles, home hi-fi systems, headphones, blue-ray/DVR players, semi-conductors, and GPS devices. All in all, the deal will cover €1 trillion in global trade, covering close to 90% of world trade in the products concerned. A total of 54 WTO members negotiated the expansion of the ITA. A limited group of countries is expected to confirm its participation in the coming days.
"This is a great deal for consumers, and for companies big and small," said Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. "We’ve worked hard to broker this compromise between different countries and to find the best solutions for Europe. This deal will cut costs for consumers and business – in particular for smaller firms, which have been hit especially hard by excessive tariffs in the past. Just as important, this deal shows how we can use the EU’s trade policy to encourage innovation in the IT sector – a part of our economy that is crucial for Europe's growth and for creating jobs."
The commissioner added: "This major achievement adds much-needed momentum to the World Trade Organization. It clearly shows that countries around the world can work together to achieve solutions that benefit everyone. I count on other countries joining soon. And looking ahead, this agreement is an inspiration to step up our efforts in the run-up to the WTO ministerial in Nairobi in December. That will be the 'make or break' meeting for the Doha development round – it will be the last chance to conclude it."
The new, expanded ITA agreement concluded today will reduce the costs for consumers and for manufacturing IT products in Europe. It will offer new market access for many of Europe's high tech companies – some of which are leaders in their fields – and encourage innovation by simplifying access to state-of-the-art technology. As such, it will contribute to the further development of the digital economy in the EU.
The role of the EU
The EU made the original proposal back in 2008 to review and expand the ITA. Other WTO members finally took up the proposal in 2012, when negotiations started. From the outset, the EU proposed liberalising a wide range of goods, including consumer goods with relatively high tariffs in the EU (up to 14%), such as set top boxes, video cameras and cathode ray tube monitors. The EU then played a key role in brokering compromises throughout the negotiations, and chaired the last three negotiating rounds.
Background on ITA expansion
Tariffs will be eliminated within 3 years from the date of application of the agreement, which is foreseen for 1st July 2016. For sensitive products longer phase-out periods will be negotiated to give industry time to adapt to a zero-tariff environment The EU has a trade surplus in the products covered of around €15 billion. The deal will not cover certain electronic products subject to duties in the EU, such as certain monitors, projectors, non-digital car radios as well as TVs.
The extension of the ITA aimed at broadening the original Information Technology Agreement between Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which came into force in 1997. A total of 54 WTO members negotiated the expansion of the ITA.
Under the original ITA, participants eliminated all customs duties on IT products such as computers, telephones, digital cameras and their parts. Since the ITA was completed and entered into force in 1997, trade in the sector has quadrupled. In May 2012 a number of participants started negotiations to expand ITA to new products. The new agreement will substantially expand the range of products covered, that include consumer and other finished products, parts and components, and machinery used in the manufacturing of IT products (enclosed a summary of the products covered by the ITA expansion).
ITA-expansion product list, explained
The expansion list covers both consumer and other finished products as well as components and manufacturing equipment.
Examples of finished products
- Multimedia products (GPS, DVD players, smart cards, optical media)
- Multifunctional printing and copying machines, ink cartridges
- Electronics (TV-cameras, video recording, digital car radios, set top boxes)
- Medical equipment: sophisticated medical equipment such as scanners, machines for magnetic resonance imaging, tomography or dental care and ophthalmology
- Video games and consoles
- Routers and switches, microscopes and telescopes
- Weighing and money-changing machines
- Loudspeakers, microphones and headphones
- Telecommunication satellites
Examples of parts and components
- Parts and components for production of IT goods and semiconductors, including TV parts and parts and other machinery incorporated in IT products, from smartphones to optical or medical equipment. This includes e.g. lasers, LED modules, touch screens, measuring and weighing instruments, switches, electromagnets, amplification apparatuses, etc.
- Multicomponent integrated circuits (MCOs), which are the latest and future generation chips included in many electronic and other products: over 30 tariff lines included
- Instruments for aeronautical and space navigation
Machinery for production of IT goods and semiconductors
- Machine tools for the manufacture of printed circuits or semiconductors and other IT products, filtering machines, and their parts
 The European Union and its 28 member states; Albania; Australia; Canada; China; Colombia; Costa Rica; Guatemala; Hong Kong, China; Iceland; Israel; Japan; Korea; Malaysia; Mauritius; Montenegro; New Zealand; Norway; the Philippines; Chinese Taipei; Singapore; Switzerland; Thailand; Turkey; and the United States.
Winners of Europe’s largest youth entrepreneurship festival unveiled
370,000 young entrepreneurs from 40 countries competed to become Europe’s Company and Start Up of the Year on United Nations World Skills Day 2021.
Swim.me and Scribo have been named the winners of the JA Europe Enterprise Challenge and Company of the Year Competition, after battling it out withEurope’s best young entrepreneurs today in Gen-E 2021, the largest entrepreneurship festival across Europe.
Organised by JA Europe and hosted this year by JA Lithuania, the Gen-E festival combines two annual awards, the Company of the Year Competition (CoYC) and the European Enterprise Challenge (EEC).
Following presentations from 180 companies led by some of the brightest young entrepreneurial minds in Europe, the winners were announced at a virtual ceremony.
The winners of the European Enterprise Challenge, for university age entrepreneurs were as follows:
- 1st - Swim.me (Greece) who created a smart wearable device that preserves the orientation of blind swimmers in the pool. The system consists of an eco-friendly swimming cap and goggles and is intended for use in training conditions.
- 2nd - Mute (Portugal), a sound absorption module, able to eliminate echo/reverb and unwanted frequencies in a room by using fabric residues. Relies as a professional, sustainable and innovative solution, that promotes a circular economy.
- 3rd - Hjárni (Norway), whose goal is to become the world's most preferred supplier of eco-friendly tanning agents for sustainable leather production. While Europe's leather generates an annual value chain turnover of 125 billion euros, 85% of this leather is made using chrome, which is dangerous for both our health and environment.
The winners of the Company of the Year Competition were as follows:
- 1st – Scribo (Slovakia), a solution to dry-erase markers that are not being recycled and produce a waste of 35 billion plastic markers every year. They have developed zero-waste dry-erase whiteboard markers made of recycled wax.
- 2nd – FlowOn (Greece), an innovative adapter which converts outdoor taps into “smart taps” regulating the flow of water, reducing water consumption by up to 80% and reducing exposure to viruses and germs by more than 98%.
- 3rd – Lazy Bowl (Austria), are an all-female company specializing in freeze-dried fruit ‘smoothiebowls’ which are free from both colorings and preservatives.
For the first time ever, the Gen-E Festival saw the announcement of a “JA Europe Teacher of the Year Award. The award seeks to acknowledge role of teachers to inspire and motivate young people, to help them discover their potential and lead them to believe in their power of acting and changing the future.
Sedipeh Wägner, a teacher from Sweden, won the prize. Ms Wägner is an experienced JA teacher who teaches at the Introduction Program, dedicated to migrants and vulnerable students to prepare for the national programme, teach them Swedish and possibly complement their previous education to meet the Swedish high school levels and standards.
JA Europe, which organized the festival, is Europe‘s largest non-profit in Europe dedicated to creating pathways for employability, job creation and financial success. Its network operates across 40 countries and last year, its programmes reached almost 4 million young people with the support of over 100,000 business volunteers and 140,000 teachers and educators.
JA Europe CEO Salvatore Nigro said: “We are delighted to announce this year’s winners of the JA Company of the Year Competition and Enterprise Challenge. Each year over 370,000 students across Europe battle it out by designing their own mini companies and start-ups to compete at Gen-E, Europe’s largest entrepreneurship festival.
"Our intention is always to help boost career ambitions and improve employability, entrepreneurial skills and attitudes. Young entrepreneurs have so much to offer our society, and every year we see a new wave of enthusiasm towards solving societal problems with their own entrepreneurship. It’s reflected in the winners again this year, that young entrepreneurs not only see business as a means to a financial end, but as a platform by which to improve society and help people around them.”
JA Europe is the largest non-profit in Europe dedicated to preparing young people for employment and entrepreneurship. JA Europe is a member of JA Worldwide® which for 100 years has delivered hands on, experiential learning in entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy.
JA creates pathways for employability, job creation and financial success. Last school year, the JA network in Europe reached almost 4 million young people across 40 countries with the support of nearly 100,000 business volunteers and over 140,000 teachers/educators.
What are the COYC and JA Company Programme? The JA Europe Company of the Year Competition is the annual European competition of the best JA Company Programme teams. The JA Company Programme empowers high school students (aged 15 to 19) to fill a need or solve a problem in their community and teaches them practical skills required to conceptualise, capitalise, and manage their own business venture. Throughout building their own company, students collaborate, make crucial business decisions, communicate with multiple stakeholders, and develop entrepreneurial knowledge and skills. Every year, more than 350,000 students across Europe take part in this programme, creating more 30,000 mini-companies.
What are the EEC and JA Start Up Programme? The European Enterprise Challenge is the annual European competition of the best JA Start Up Programme teams. The Start Up Programme allows post-secondary students (aged 19 to 30) to experience running their own company, showing them how to use their talents to set up their own business. Students also develop attitudes and skills necessary for personal success and employability and gain essential understanding in self-employment, business creation, risk-taking and coping with adversity, all with experienced business volunteers. Every year, more than 17,000 students from 20 countries across Europe are taking part in this programme, creating 2,500+ start-ups per year.
Commission adopts proposal for a Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe
The Commission has adopted its proposal for a Council Recommendation on ‘A Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe' to support the implementation of national European Research Area (ERA) policies. The Pact proposal defines shared priority areas for joint action in support of the ERA, sets out the ambition for investments and reforms, and constitutes the basis for a simplified policy coordination and monitoring process at EU and member states' level through an ERA platform where member states can share their reform and investment approaches to enhance exchanges of best practices. Importantly, to ensure an impactful ERA, the Pact foresees the engagement with research and innovation stakeholders.
A Europe fit for the Digital Age Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said: “The pandemic has shown us the importance of uniting research and innovation efforts that swiftly bring results to the market. It has shown us the importance investment in jointly agreed strategic priorities between Member States and the EU. The Pact for Research and Innovation we propose today, will facilitate better collaboration and join our efforts to tackle research and innovation objectives that matter the most for Europe. And it will allow all of us to learn from each other.”
Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said: “The Pact for Research and Innovation is the first milestone in our ambition for a simplified and more efficient European Research Area. The objective of the Pact is to foster the future dialogue process with key actors putting a clear emphasis on sharing best practices and facilitating the collaboration of member states to invest in and coordinate on common research and innovation objectives.”
The Pact was announced in the Commission's Communication on ‘A new ERA for Research and Innovation' of September 2020 and endorsed by Council Conclusions on the new ERA in December 2020. You will find more information here.
New rules on open data and reuse of public sector information start to apply
17 July marked the deadline for member states to transpose the revised Directive on open data and reuse of public sector information into national law. The updated rules will stimulate the development of innovative solutions such as mobility apps, increase transparency by opening the access to publicly funded research data, and support new technologies, including artificial intelligence. A Europe fit for the Digital Age Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestage said: “With our Data Strategy, we are defining a European approach to unlock the benefits of data. The new directive is key to make the vast and valuable pool of resources produced by public bodies available for reuse. Resources that have already been paid by the taxpayer. So the society and the economy can benefit from more transparency in the public sector and innovative products.”
Internal market Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “These rules on open data and reuse of public sector information will enable us to overcome the barriers that prevent the full re-use of public sector data, in particular for SMEs. The total direct economic value of these data is expected to quadruple from €52 billion in 2018 for the EU Member States and the UK to €194 billion in 2030. Increased business opportunities will benefit all EU citizens thanks to new services.”
The public sector produces, collects and disseminates data in many areas, for example geographical, legal, meteorological, political and educational data. The new rules, adopted in June 2019, ensure that more of this public sector information is easily available for re-use, thus generating value for the economy and society. They result from a review of the former Directive on the re-use of public sector information (PSI Directive). The new rules will bring the legislative framework up to date with recent advances in digital technologies and further stimulate digital innovation. More information is available online.
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