China cutting duties on IT products for WTO most favored nations

September 14, 2016 4:09 AM EDT

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China will cut import tariffs for over 200 information technology products for the World Trade Organization's (WTO) most favored nations from September 15, the Ministry of Finance said on Wednesday.

This is the first time China has cut tariffs for these products, the online statement said, adding that Beijing aims to reduce most import duties for the products on the list to zero within three to five years.

The move may be an effort by Beijing to demonstrate greater openness. China has frequently been at odds with the WTO, especially with the United States, and the trade relations between the world's two largest economies have become strained, with accusations of protectionism not uncommon.

Technology has been a particular sore spot for foreign firms operating in China, with Microsoft Corp being investigated for anti-trust violations. Beijing has already found chip-maker Qualcomm Inc guilty of anti-trust violations.

Some of the products on the list are of great importance to Beijing, including semiconductors. In some years, China has spent more on importing semiconductors, often for use in smartphone manufacturing and similar industries, than it has on crude oil.

Other items to have duties cut include touch screens, audio-visual equipment and medical devices, as well as various specialized product parts.

A small number of products will have their tariffs reduced to zero within seven years, the statement said.

The cuts also fit a pattern of government moves to reduce taxes across various sectors, in an effort to boost consumption.

(Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk and Paul Carsten; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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