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Nigeria, others lose as imports of digitisable products hit $139b

As concerns mount over the future of digitally delivered products, Nigeria and other developing nations have lost about $10b, as imports of digitisable products hit $139b.

A report by the United Nations yesterday was uncertain if the items in question, especially those requested online, should be exempted from duty payments due to emerging development.

Senior Economic Affairs Officer, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Rashmi Banga, in the document observed that with the digital revolution, more products were leaving their physical carriers and trading online.

According to the analysis, while movies and music go in CDs and CD-ROMs, technology had advanced digital trading with books now exchanging as e-books, and video games downloaded or played online.

It pointed out that although tariffs apply to physical imports of these products, the online version, on the other hand, escape levies, as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) e-commerce moratorium bans countries from imposing taxes on electronic transmissions.

The UNCTAD estimated that the potential revenue losses to developing countries due to the suspension was $10 billion in 2017, stressing that a decision on continuing with the decision or otherwise would be taken at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference next year.

With the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, Banga noted that prolonged lockdowns had led to an exponential rise in importation of digitalised luxury items like movies, music, video games and other printed matters.

The WTO had categorised digitisable goods to include sound recordings, audiovisual works, video games– computer software and other literary works.

The global agency also identified 30 digitisable materials with their Harmonised System (HS) codes and associated tariffs, estimating that the physical trade of these items had been falling at a yearly rate of 2.7 per cent since 2000.

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