As of July 1, 2016, Canada has removed tariffs on imports of 54
high tech goods. It has undertaken to phase out all customs duties
on another 49 items over the next three years. The duty removal
extends to a range of information technology and communications
The removal of customs duties on 201 high tech products was part
of agreed updates to the Information Technology Agreement
("ITA") at the World Trade Organization
("WTO)". Fifty three WTO members encompassing 82
countries and customs territories have agreed to eliminate tariffs
immediately, or over the next three years. Major trading partners
that have also agreed to duty removal include China, South Korea,
Japan, the United States and all countries of the European
The ITA entered into force in 1997 with 29
participants. The number of participants have since grown to 82
countries or customs territories that the WTO reports as
representing 97% of world trade in information technology products.
In December of 2015, delegates at the Nairobi Ministerial
Conference agreed to expand the ITA to cover an additional
201 products with an estimated value exceeding CDN$1.6 trillion in
global trade per year.
The appendices under the ITA listing all 201 products
may be found
here. Attachment A provides a listing of products at the
6-digit harmonized code sub-headings that are covered by the
Agreement. Attachment B provides a listing of composite products
that are physically described since they might be differently
classified by different countries.
Canada has generally had relatively low tariffs on ITA
products, though tariffs as high as 8% have been reduced to zero as
of July 1st. Almost half of the 201 listed IT products were already
eligible for duty-free access to the Canadian market. A full
listing of the tariff items affected and new duty rates may be
found at: http://www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2016/2016-07-13/html/sor-dors197-eng.php
While the removal of these duties will be a benefit to Canadian
importers, the Minister of International Trade identified a range
of information and communication technology product tariff
reductions through the ITA that will be beneficial to
Canadian exporters. The products listed by Ms. Freeland include:
flight simulators, audiovisual products and parts, semi-conductors
and electronic integrated circuits, telecommunications products,
software, media storage devices, radar apparatus, video-game
consoles, medical devices and navigational equipment. The
liberalization of markets worldwide could prove to be of particular
benefit for Canadian exporters to Asian markets, where import
duties have traditionally been higher than for many other trading
Canadian exporters should be aware that tariff classifications
may differ between countries. While the International Harmonized
System Code sets out a standardized system for the first six digits
of tariff classification, individual countries may add up to four
additional digits for their own internal customs regulations and
statistical purposes. Also, as noted above, individual countries
may have a different approach to classifying compound goods.
Accordingly, Canadian exporters should confirm the appropriate
tariff classification that is to be applied in the destination
Despite the removal of tariff barriers, Canadian exporters
should ensure that specific products for export or their intended
destinations do not run afoul of Canadian sanctions or other export
The foregoing provides only an overview and does not
constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any
decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal
advice should be obtained.
While that agreement mandated export measures on Canadian softwood lumber exports destined for the United States, it also protected those lumber exports from the potential imposition of onerous import measures by the U.S.
On September 29, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its first tariff classification decision since Canada signed the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System in 1998.
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