US-China press forward on expanding high-tech trade agreement

President Obama said Monday night that the U.S. and China are nearing a final agreement on expanding a major technology pact.

Obama said that the world’s two largest economies would work toward including a broader scope of goods covered by the Information Technology Agreement (ITA). 

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"It was APEC's work that led to the Information Technology Agreement, which we are now negotiating to expand,” Obama said, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing.

"So, it is fitting that we are here with our APEC colleagues to share the news that the United States and China have reached an understanding that we hope will contribute to a rapid conclusion of the broader negotiations in Geneva,” he said.

The breakthrough represents a key piece to completing the ITA expansion, which has been on hold for the past year.

China and the United States have been working to narrow their differences, but had so far failed to reach an agreement that would allow for talks to restart with all the World Trade Organization (WTO) members.

"A U.S.-China understanding has been widely viewed as a critical step toward completion of the agreement, with full talks now targeted for December in Geneva," the White House said in a statement. 

U.S. Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael FromanFurman says Pacific trade deal will pass this year Overnight Finance: Anxiety grows over Brexit vote | Investors prefer Trump to Clinton in poll | Key chairman open to censuring IRS chief Former Rep. Frank urges White House, Congress to drop efforts to pass TPP MORE said in some cases a deal would reduce tariffs of 25 or 30 percent to zero on products such as medical devices, certain software and video game consoles. 

Trade in those areas would be expected to "grow significantly," he said during a press conference in Beijing. 

Froman said the determination of the phaseout of the tariffs would be discussed in Geneva. 

The White House said that the agreement paves the way for the “resumption and swift conclusion of the first major tariff-cutting deal at the WTO in 17 years, and promises a major boost to U.S. technology exports and the jobs that support them.”

Since their launch in 2012, negotiations to expand the ITA's product scope have grown to include 54 participants, which account for about 90 percent of global trade in products under negotiation.

An expanded deal would reduce to zero more than 200 tariff lines, including medical equipment, GPS devices, video game consoles, computer software and semiconductors.

Since the ITA went into force in 1997, global trade covered by the agreement has more than tripled, rising to more than $4 trillion in annual trade.  

Yet, despite extensive advances in technology, the product scope has never been expanded.

An expansion also would support upward of 60,000 additional U.S. jobs, according to the White House.