Home Asia-Pacific II 1999 The Aniversary of the WTO Agreement on the Liberalisation of Telecommunications

The Aniversary of the WTO Agreement on the Liberalisation of Telecommunications

by david.nunes
Roy MacLarenIssue:Asia-Pacific II 1999
Article no.:9
Topic:The Aniversary of the WTO Agreement on the Liberalisation of Telecommunications
Author:Roy MacLaren
Title:High Commissioner
Organisation:Canadian Embassy, UK
PDF size:24KB

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Article abstract

Due to my commitment to the rules-based World Trade Organisation and my unwavering belief in the value of the further trade and investment liberalisation, I am delighted that Canada is able to celebrate the anniversary of the WTO agreement on the liberalisation of telecommunications.

Full Article

Canada has fully embraced the new global telecommunications rules established by the WTO agreement. In aiming to foster one of the worlds most open and competitive telecommunications markets, Canada has been active in implementing and – in some areas – significantly exceeded WTO obligations. For example, foreign satellites can now be used for overseas telecommunications one full year ahead of Canadas compliance deadline. Negotiations on basic telecommunications services, undertaken within the framework of the General Agreement on Trade in Services, concluded in February 1997. It had two primary objectives – to allow more competition into the provision of telecommunications services and to establish a transparent and predictable framework for trade and investment One of Canadas commitments was to end the monopoly of Teleglobe, Canadas monopolies on overseas traffic and its fixed satellite system and the removal of special ownership restrictions prohibiting foreign investment into the national telecommunications carriers industry. Foreign ownership was to be accepted in the areas of submarine cable landings and mobile satellite systems through which various services could be delivered to Canadians. As guiding principles, Canada agreed to maintain an open, competitive market and a transparent regulatory regime. Despite technical and legal complexities, Canada lost no time in preparing for change and delivering on its promises. On 15th December last year , the Minister for Industry, John Manley, announced a new fixed satellite service policy. With effect from that date, all segments of Canadas fixed satellite market are undergoing gradual liberalisation, culminating in full competition by 1st March , 2000. The new policy, which came into effect a year before Canadas deadline to comply with its commitments made in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on Basic Telecommunications, calls for the immediate use of foreign satellites for overseas telecommunications and for access to Intelsat satellites to accommodate Canadian international service providers and users. The policy also allows new Canadian satellite carriers and all foreign satellites to access the Canadian domestic and Canada?U.S. satellite markets, thus signalling the end of Telesat Canadas monopoly for fixed satellite facilities for domestic and Canada?US traffic (by 1st March , 2000). Canada is now moving to fully liberalise its licensing of transmit and receive?only earth stations to permit service providers and users to operate their own stations on all approved fixed satellites. The new, open fixed satellite policy is expected to benefit all regions providing them with access to a wide range of advanced and competitive satellite services. As Mr. Manley observed: “It is a major step forward in the governments strategy to promote competition, innovation and growth in Canadas telecommunications industry.” Telecommunications liberalisation is at the heart of the electronic revolution and has in a sense created a world without borders This phenomenon alone suggests the folly of those who may be presently tempted towards protectionism at the outset of economic downturn. At the Geneva Forum of International Affairs last September, I acknowledged the economic difficulties experienced by many in some parts of the world. But I warned that attacks on liberalisation stemming from these setbacks – serious though they were – are both naive and dangerous.As UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has indicated, globalisation is not an ideology but an objective reality. My words to the forum were direct : “The critics of liberalisation are like King Canute attempting to turn back the tide – in this case the tide of trade, investment and technology flowing relentlessly over the globe.” I could have reminded them of the ocean of packets – microsegments of information – constantly passing around the globe like waves on the shorelines – electronic deal-making, private exchanges, education, entertainment, enlightenment. To repeat, an objective reality, not an ideology. . However, just as in the trade in visibles, rules must govern and guide dealings in cyberspace. Canada would like to see a global framework for the new communications infrastructure. We already called for increased efforts in this area at the 15th Conference of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) which was held shortly after commendable progress had been made in Ottawa at the OECD Ministerial Conference on electronic commerce. The Ottawa Conference was a landmark in the development of electronic commerce, bringing us forward in realising a global agenda. Throughout the Conference, we benefited enormously from the input and advice from industry, non?governmental organisations and labour representatives, as well as a number of non?OECD countries that participated. Ministers came to the Ottawa conference with diverse views on how to best harness the global potential of electronic commerce. Emerging from these talks where a number of compatible solutions on E?commerce issues such as privacy, consumer protection, authentication and taxation. In Ottawa, we agreed that, for global electronic commerce to flourish, we must avoid making domestic decisions that effectively create obstacles hindering the development of a truly global framework. We do not want to see the erection of new digital barriers. We should strive to make the new technologies available to all. To all countries, and to all peoples. The benefits of connectedness – including development, learning and health – must be delivered to the worlds population. Since no nation can achieve this on their own, it should be a global priority supported by global action through the ITU, given its 188 member states and 450 telecommunications sector organisations. The Canadian experience sets an example for others. We are bringing the benefits of technologies through three distinct initiatives – Connecting Canadians, the SchoolNet Programme, and the Community Access Programme. SchoolNet, working with provincial and private sector partners, has seen all Canadas schools and public libraries connected to the Internet. CAPs goal is to help establish up to 10 000 public Internet access sites in Canadas rural, remote and urban communities by the end of the 2000 fiscal year. And Connecting Canadians is leading Canada to become the country with the greatest number of people connected by the new millennium. When Canada House in London was reopened last May, a main priority was to link Canada and Britain by Internet as the modern means for spreading information, education and entertainment for visitors on a permanent level. Since then, an average of 600 users have logged on at our Bell Canada Centre every week. The figure is indicative of the existing demand. In the time it takes to read this article, hundreds, if not thousands, of new Web sites will have come on-line, thousands more people will have connected to the Internet, and billions of dollars of business will have been transacted. Yet it seems only a short time ago when we first heard of the information super-highway. Aware that anyone can get hurt simply by moving into the traffic, Canada set up a highway code to guide policy. Electronic commerce has become an integral part of the strategy of most economies in order for them to progress in a global, knowledge-based economy and society. Business organisations and individual companies the world over, are competing to capture what is now recognised as one of the biggest opportunities of the new millennium. Consumers are increasingly crossing the digital divide and logging on to electronic services, products and international information. In this knowledge, the Prime Minister Jean Chrétien announced a strategy to make Canada a world leader in electronic commerce by the year 2000. The strategy addresses four key issues: Building trust in the digital economy : increasing consumer and business confidence in electronic commerce by addressing security, privacy and consumer protection concerns Clarifying marketplace rules : removing barriers to the use of electronic commerce by updating the rules governing the market functions, including legal and commercial frameworks, financial issues and taxation, and intellectual property protection Strengthening the information infrastructure : ensuring networks support the growth of electronic commerce, and allow inter-operability Realising the opportunities : maximising jobs and growth potential of electronic commerce by developing skills and awareness and showing government leadership as model users. Conclusion To achieve these goals, all players in the digital economy must work together. No single country, company or individual holds all the levers necessary to make global electronic commerce a reality and to realise its full economic and social potential.

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