Information Technology Agreement (ITA) - Global Unions and International Civil Society Express Concerns

October 2013 

Dear Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), 

We, the undersigned trade unions and civil society organizations, representing hundreds of millions of members across the globe, arewriting to express our deep concern over negotiations in the WTO to expandthe Information Technology Agreement (ITA) to the ITA-II. The international trade union movement and international civil society are concerned about the expansion of ITA because it could further harm workers, particularly in developing countries, that have yet not benefited from the agreement, and possibly deteriorate the developmental prospects for those which participate. 

The information and communication technology (ICT) sector has enormous capacity to contribute to domestic industry creation, employment generation, and technological development. Unfortunately, claims of the ITA’s potential benefits have failed to materialize for the majority of workers in participating countries. The necessary diffusion of technology and the need to overcome the digital divide within and across countries requirespolicy space for governmentsin order to implement industrial policies that enable them to develop their own industries or to increase the ownership of production of ICTs in supply chains in which they operate. Instead of promoting industrial capacity, job creation, and technological diffusion, the ITA has erodedpolicy space for the majority of developing country participants. Experiences with the ITA indicate that from the point of view of developing and Least Developed Countries (LDCs), irreversible and binding commitments under the potential ITA-II could likely damage their present and future growth potential. 

An expanded ITAmight lead to an erosion of domestic manufacturing and loss of growth potential.ICT is an important manufacturing sector with the potential to generate domestic industries and exports. Unfortunately, ITA tariff reductions have opened the flood gates to imports into the domestic markets of many developing countries, with many local manufacturers being pushed out of the market. In many countries, large numbers of domestic manufacturers have turned into assemblers and traders of ICT products, or haveseen a reduction in the domestic content of ICT goods. Developing countries could give an advantage to their producers if they excluded their ICT markets until their domestic industries become competitive internationally, thus also providingavenues for higher domestic investment in production. 

Any negotiations on goods should focus on expanding the potential for decent jobs, which the proposed ITA-II does not. The claimed benefits of economic growth and potential job creation in ICT manufacturing have failed tomaterialize for the majority of ITA members. The creation of new industry is essential for the generation of sustainable decent jobs; yet domestic ICT manufacturing, and thus jobs, have been eroded rather than expanded. Where ICT jobs do exist in developing countries, workers have yet to be able to capture a fair share of the alleged gains. Workers in developing countries are often trapped in performing only low value-added processes in the ICT sector, often in export processing zones (EPZs) and special economic zones (SEZs), where workers do not enjoy the right to unionise and collectively bargain or the right to sick leave and social insurance. EPZs and SEZs are isolated production enclaves with few forward and backward linkages. Lowtaxation and high repatriation of profits further reduce domestic investment in job creation or other development priorities. Negotiations on goods must begin with a focus on decent job creation, to be based on the principles of fairness and equity in order to lift living standards by supporting employment growth, improving social protections and providing for fundamental workers’ rights and environmental standards. Expanding the ITA goes in the wrong direction, and would hinder, rather than contribute to, a resolution of the global jobs crisis. 

An expanded ITA will likely benefit Transnational Corporations (TNCs) in countries with advanced technological development, particularly given patent monopolies and the lack of technology transfer. A small number ofTNCs from developed countries reap the largest benefits from the intellect-intensive processes of technological design and marketing. The domination of the global ICT sector by a few corporations poses threats to the utilization of technology to address developmental concerns of developing countries and LDCs. In many countries the effects of mass production have not benefitted consumers and users of technology due to the oligopolistic market settings. Patents on technologies account for the largest part of value added, and have increased disproportionately compared to other industry sectors in both developed and developing top-trading ITA participants. Although several global ICT producers have invested in research and development in developing countries, these countries have enjoyed very limited technology transfer, and consequently have seen only marginal increases in their value added and in employment. 

Developing countries should not accept delinking tariffs and Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) in any negotiations.The ITAbrought tariffs to zero in 76 countries; unfortunately, the significant amount of NTBs, especially in the form of national standards and regulation, remained unaddressed. The issue of NTBs has exposed inherent weaknesses in the WTO system and the lopsided negotiation process dominated by a few developed countries, even in the plurilateral talks. While there has been much interest in tariff elimination in the ITA and in the proposed ITA-II, there has been no corresponding interest among the leading ITA members to address NTBs – even though three in four NTBs notified to the WTO are implemented in developed countries. The current status of NTBs effectively restricts developing countries’ exports to developed countries, except if developing countries are well-integrated in global production chains owned and operated by developed countries’ corporations. Negotiating parties should strike the right balance in NTBs so as to ensure high-quality products on the one hand and facilitate access to developed markets on the other. 

Governments considering engaging in ITA-II negotiations must conduct impact assessments so as to be able to make decisions based on research and assessment rather than unproven claims. It is rather appalling that after 15 years of the ITA, a comprehensive impact assessment has yet to be conducted. Prior to commencing in negotiations to expand the ITA, governments should conduct a comprehensive assessment of the existing agreement’s impact on the environment and on economic and social development, particularly regarding employment in the ICT sector. They should then examine the potential expansion of the agreement in light of financial market weaknesses and instability; a persisting jobs crisis; growing inequalities; and other major challenges. The decision of countries as to whether or not to participate in ITA-II negotiations should be based on actual and projected social, economic and developmental impacts rather than mere claims about the benefits of ITA or ITA-II. 

Assessments must take into account the losses of government revenue from tariff reductions. Developing countries are more likely to use tariffs than subsidies in their protection of domestic industries. The reduction of tariffs to zero on ITA-included products by 2005 thus affected developing countries more than developed countries. In addition to impacting levels of employment, tariff elimination reduces revenues which the government could have used for spending on other important developmental activities, such as health care, education, and infrastructure. For some LDCs, tariffs constitute significant source of revenue for the national budget. Thereforecountries should take this into account into their consideration of whether to participate in ITA expansion negotiations. 

Developing countries, and particularly LDCs, can enjoy market access benefits on a non-reciprocal basis if they do not join the ITA-II. Signatories to the ITA are mandated to extend the benefits of tariff elimination to all WTO members on a Most Favoured Nation (MFN) basis. Therefore, countries that are not yet competitive in ICT manufacturing can already benefit from market access of other participating member, without having to join the agreement. LDCs already enjoy preferential access to most major markets, and would not gain more by joining the ITA-II. 

National security issues should be taken into account.As some products included in the proposed in ITA-II are used in armed forces and intelligence, some countries have raised concerns with regard to national security. The agreement should leave ample space for countries to deal with these issues as they deem appropriate. 

Any negotiations should be transparent and accessible. Negotiations with such major implications as the ITA-II should be transparent and accessible by civil society and interest groups so as to increase the probability of a fair, inclusive and relevant agreement for all. In addition, making trade inclusive has been stated as a global goal in several international fora, and should be built into the negotiations process of any international or plurilateral agreement. 

Sincerely,

 (endorsements as of October 1) 

 

International

1.      Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND)

2.      International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

3.      ACP Civil Society Forum

4.      Dignity International

5.      IBON

6.      International Grail Global Justice Network

7.      International Union of Food workers (IUF-UITA-IUL)

8.      UNI Global Union (UNI)

Africa

Egypt

9.      Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Egypt

Mauritius

10.  Mauritius Council of Social Service (MACOSS), Mauritius 

Rest of Africa

11.  Fórum das OrganizaçõesNãoGovernamentaisAngolanas – (FONGA), Angola

12.  Groupe de Recherche et d'Action pour la  Promotion de l'Agriculture et du Développement (GRAPAD), Benin

13.  Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO), Botswana

14.  Civil Society Organization Network for Development (RESOCIDE), Burkina Faso

15.  Cadre de concertation des OSC pour le suivi du CSLP (CdC/CSLP), Burkina Faso

16.  Action Développement et IntégrationRégionale (ADIR), Burundi

17.  Conseil des ONG Agrees Du Cameroun (CONGAC), Cameroon

18.  Association Commerciale, Agricole, Industriel et du Service (ACAISA), Cape Verde

19.  Conseil Inter-ONG en Centrafrique (CIONGCA), Central African Republic

20.  CILONG, Chad

21.  Alliance pour la Reconstruction et le Development Post Confit (ARDPC), Cote D’Ivoire

22.  Forum des ONG pour le Développement Durable (FONGDD), Equatorial Guinea

23.  PANE &Cotonou Task Force, Ethiopia

24.  ConcertationNationale Des Organisationspaysannes et des Producteurs (CNOP), Gabon

25.  Agricultural Workers Union of TUC, Ghana

26.  Ghana Trade and Livelihood Coalition (GTLC), Ghana

27.  InstitutoNacional de Estudos e Pesquisa (INEI), Guinea Bisau

28.  Federation de Femmes Enterpreneurs et Affairs de la CEDEAO (FEFA), Guinea (Conakry)

29.  National Council of NGOs, Kenya

30.  Economic Justice Network Lesotho (EJNL), Lesotho

31.  Consumers Protection Association (CPA), Lesotho

32.  Lesotho Council of NGOs (LCN), Lesotho

33.  Policy Analysis and Research Institute of Lesotho (PARIL), Lesotho

34.  The Call for Africa Development (CAD), Lesotho

35.  African Women Association (WAWA), Liberia

36.  Plate-FormeNationale des Organisations de la SocieteCivile de Madagascar, Madagascar

37.  Malawi Economic Justice Network (national NGO platform), Malawi

38.  ASRAD, Mali

39.  Foundation pour le Developpment au Sahel (FDS), Mali

40.  Jeunesse Union Africaine du Mali (JUA-Mali), Mali

41.  National Forum for Mozambiquan NGOs and CBOs (TEIA), Mozambique

42.  Namibia Non-Governmental Organisations Forum Trust, Namibia

43.  National du Réseau des Ong de Développement et Associations de Défense des Droits de l'Homme et de la Démocratie (RODADDHD), Niger

44.  National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), Nigeria

45.  Conseil National des ONG de Développement (CNONGD), RD Congo

46.  Conseil de Concertation des ONGs de Développement (CCOD), Congo Brazzaville

47.  Rwanda Civil Society Platform, Rwanda

48.  Plate-forme des acteurs non étatiques pour le suivi de l'Accord de Cotonou au Sénégal, Senegal

49.  Seychelles Civil Society Organisations (Liaison Unit of the non-governmental organisations of Seychelles - LUNGOS), Seychelles

50.  Civil Society Movement, Sierra Leone

51.  South African NGO Council (SANGOCO), South Africa

52.  Forum das ONG de São Tomé e Principe (FONG-STP), St Thomas and Principe

53.  Somali Organisation for Community Development Activities (SOCDA), Somalia

54.  Council for NGOs (CANGO), Swaziland

55.  Tanzania Association of NGOs, Tanzania

56.  World View, The Gambia

57.  Grouped'Action et de Reflexionsurl'Environnement et le Développement (GARED), Togo

58.  Consumer Education Trust, Uganda

59.  Zambia Council for Social Development, Zambia

60.  National Association of NGOs (NANGO), Zimbabwe 

Americas

Canada

61.  Council of Canadians 

El Salvador

62.  Red Accion de CiudadanaFrente al LibreComercio e Inversion, SINTI TECHAN 

Dominican Republic

63.  Alianza ONG 

Guatemala

64.  Union Sindical de Trabajadores de Guatemala (UNSITRAGUA), Guatemala 

Panama

65.  Confederación de Trabajadores de la Republica de Panamá (CTRP), Panamá 

Peru

66.  Central Autónoma de Trabajadores del Perú 

Rest of Americas

67.  The Gilbert Agricultural and Rural Development Centre (GARDC), Antigua and Barbuda

68.  Confederación General del Trabajo de la República Argentina, Argentina

69.  ForoLatinoamericano del Trabajo, la Innivacion e Integración (FLATI), Argentina

70.  Civil Society Bahamas, Bahamas

71.  National Congress of Trade Unions Bahamas (NCTUB), Bahamas

72.  Barbados Association of Non Governmental Organizations, Barbados

73.  Belize Enterprise for Sustainable Technology, Belize

74.  SociedadEconómica de Amigos del País, Cuba

75.  KalingoCarib Council, Dominica

76.  Inter-Agency Group of Development Organizations (IAGDO), Grenada

77.  Grenada National Organisation of Women, Grenada

78.  Women Across Differences (WAD), Guyana

79.  Programme de Plaidoyer Pour uneIntégration Alternative (PPIA), Haiti

80.  3rd ACP Civil Society Forum, Jamaica

81.  BiaÂŽlii, Asesoría e Investigación, A.C. Mexico

82.  GrupoTacuba, Mexico

83.  Marco Velazquez, Profesor Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México

84.  Iyanola Council for the Advancement of Rastafari Incorporated (ICAR), St. Lucia

85.  Windward Islands Farmers’ Association (WINFA), St. Vincent & the Grenadines

86.  StichtingProjekta, Suriname

87.  Grassroots Organisations of Trinidad & Tobago (GOTT), Trinidad & Tobago

88.  Instituto del TercerMundo, Uruguay 

Asia Pacific

89.  PaxRomana-ICMICA Asia 

Australia

90.  Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)

91.  Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET) 

Hong Kong

92.  Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC) 

India

93.  Andhra Pradesh VyavasayaVruthidarula Union (APVVU)

94.  BharatiyaKrishakSamaj - Indian Farmers' Organisation (BKS)

95.  Cividep, Workers' Rights and Corporate Accountability

96.  Intercultural Resources

97.  IT for Change

98.  Jagrriti- The Awareness (JTA)

99.  National Adivasi Alliance

100.                      National Agricultural Workers Forum (NAWF)

101.                      National Center for Labour 

Indonesia

102.                      Confederation of Indonesia Prosperous Trade Unions (KSBSI)

103.                      Institute for Global Justice (IKG)

104.                      Resistance and Alternatives to Globalization (RAG) 

Philippines

105.                      Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), Philippines

106.                      Center of United and Progressive Workers - SentrongmgaNagkakaisa at ProgresibongManggagawa (SENTRO)

107.                      Confederation of Labor and Allied Social Services (CLASS), Philippines

108.                      Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS)

109.                      Mission for Victims of Human Trafficking

110.                      Overseas Filipino Workers and their Family

111.                      Promotion of Church People’s Response

112.                      The United Methodist Church-Philippines

113.                      Workers Assistance Center, Inc. 

Thailand

114.                      AIDS ACCESS Foundation

115.                      Alternative Agricultural Network

116.                      Drug Study Group

117.                      Drug System Monitoring and Development Program

118.                      Ecological Alert and Recovery – Thailand (EARTH)

119.                      Foundation for AIDS Rights

120.                      Foundation for Consumers

121.                      FTA Watch

122.                      Health and Development Foundation

123.                      Health Consumers Protection Program

124.                      People's Health System Movement 

125.                      Rural Doctor Society

126.                      Rural Pharmacists Foundation

127.                      Social Pharmacy Research Unit, Chulalongkorn University

128.                      Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC)

129.                      Thai Holistic Health Foundation

130.                      Thai NGO Coalition on AIDS

131.                      The Thai Network of People living with HIV/AIDS (TNP+) 

Malaysia

132.                      Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET)

133.                      Workers Hub For Change (WH4C) 

New Zealand

134.                      New Zealand Council of Trade Unions 

Rest of Asia

135.                      Cooperation for Peace and Development (CPD), Afganistan

136.                      Cook Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (CIANGO), Cook Islands

137.                      Pacific Network on Globalisation, Fiji

138.                      Kiribati Association of Non-Governmental Organisation (KANGO), Kiribati

139.                      Marshall Islands Council of NGOs (MICNGOS), Marshall Islands

140.                      FSM Alliance of NGOs (FANGO), Micronesia

141.                      Nauru Island Association of NGOs (NIANGO), Nauru

142.                      Global South Initiative, Nepal

143.                      Niue Island (Umbrella) Association of NGOs (NIUANGO), Niue

144.                      Social Alternatives for Community Empowerment, Haripur, Pakistan

145.                      Melanesian NGO Centre for Leadership (MNCL), Papua New Guinea

146.                      Samoa Umbrella for Non-Governmental Organisations (SUNGO), Samoa

147.                      Development Service Exchange (DSE), Solomon Islands

148.                      The Asia Foundation, Timor Leste

149.                      Civil Society Forum of Tonga (CSFT), Tonga

150.                      Tuvalu Association of NGOs (TANGO), Tuvalu

151.                      Vanuatu Assocation of NGOs (VANGO), Vanuatu

152.                      Al-Jawf Women Organization For Development, Yemen 

Europe

European Union

153.                      European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) 

Belgium

154.                      11.11.11

155.                      Centre national de coopération au développement (CNCD) 

France

156.                      Confédérationgénérale du travail (CGT) 

Ireland

157.                      Presentation Justice Network - Ireland 

Italy

158.                      ConfederazioneGeneraleItaliana del Lavoro (CGIL) 

Spain

159.                      ConfederaciónSindical de ComisionesObreras (CCOO) 

Switzerland

160.                      Godly Global 

UK

161.                      Trade Union Congress (TUC)

162.                      People & Planet

163. Roj Women's Association, UK and Turkey