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China Approves Tariff Concession Schedule Amendment

The National People's Congress Standing Committee examined and approved on 3 September the Amendment to the Tariff Concession Schedule of the World Trade Organisation Accession Protocol of the People’s Republic of China. Accordingly, China will in the near term start to reduce and finally eliminate the customs duties imposed on 201 information technology products imported from WTO members.

These IT products include information and communications technology products, semiconductors and semiconductor manufacturing equipment, audio-visual products, medical equipment, instruments and meters etc. The majority of these products will have their import tariffs reduced to zero in three or five years, while a few will meet this target in seven years. Lou Jiwei, Minister of Finance and head of the State Council’s Tariff Regulations Committee outlined the salient points of the Amendment in the course of review.

Based on the decision adopted at the 17th meeting of the Standing Committee of the Ninth National People's Congress, China signed in 2001 the Protocol on the Accession of the People's Republic of China, the major legal document on the country’s accession to the WTO. The Tariff Concession Schedule is one of the annexes to the protocol. The Amendment represents the first move by China to revise the Schedule since its WTO accession, and the first time for NPC’s Standing Committee to examine an amendment bill on tariff concession. The passage of the bill demonstrates China’s consistent supportive stance towards a multilateral global trade regime.

It is believed that the approval of the Amendment is conducive to the implementation of the results of negotiations on expanding the scope of products covered by the WTO Information Technology Agreement by all parties concerned. China participated in the negotiations in 2012. After a difficult process, 24 participants including China issued on 16 December 2015 a joint ministerial declaration on the expansion of trade in IT products, which stated that all participants shall, upon the completion of domestic approval procedures and in accordance with the principle of most-favoured-nation (MFN) treatment, gradually eliminate the import tariffs on 201 IT products originating from WTO members. This was the first major tariff concession deal for IT products concluded within the WTO framework in the past 20 years, covering around US$1.3 trillion worth of IT products traded globally each year.

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