Brussels, 28 – The Computer & Communications Industry Association welcomes today’s release of a report it commissioned that details how proposals at a diplomatic conference in Dubai next month on Internet control could violate existing international trade obligations. “Whither Global Rules for the Internet? The implications of the World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT) for International Trade,” was jointly written by Rohan Samarajiva and Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, internationally respected experts on global telecommunications and trade policy.
The report compares provisions in WCIT proposals by governments to amend current international telecommunications obligations with existing binding rules on trade that many of these same governments are subject to at the World Trade Organisation. The findings suggest a significant disconnect.
Among the report’s key conclusions:
- Proposals being made by governments for the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) do not adequately take into account their commitments under the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS);
- WTO member-countries have made commitments that forbid them from imposing restrictions on the most common forms of Internet services that would likely be broken were proposals in front of the upcoming conference to be agreed to.
- All WTO member-states must abide by a moratorium on tariffs and equivalent fees on data transmissions that explicitly forbids access fees for data whether they are discriminatory or not. Some proposals, such as those promoted by some European telecommunications operators, would likely conflict with this obligation.
Rohan Samarajiva: “I was fortunate to be active in regulation in the late 90s when the developing countries were opening up their markets and we were beginning to see massive increases in voice connectivity. The WTO rules including the regulatory reference paper made an important contribution at that time. Today, we are at a similar juncture as millions across the developing world are joining the Internet. Ill-considered proposals such as those seeking to impose “access charges” under an international treaty endanger this historic moment. It is my hope that the WTO commitments will serve as a brake on these retrograde actions.”
Hosuk Lee-Makiyama: “The ITU delegates need to be mindful about the commitments their trade ministries have made in the WTO. Whatever the outcome will be during WCIT, it will not provide a carte blanche to disrupt data flows or discriminate foreign entities against the WTO rules. Such market interference will lead to costly trade retaliations.”
This ground-breaking report shows that trade rules have not been sufficiently taken into account by WCIT negotiators and is yet another argument for why the ITRs should not touch the Internet.
The following can be attributed to CCIA’s Geneva Representative Nick Ashton-Hart:
“In our discussions with Geneva-based government representatives it was clear that the ministries dealing with WCIT were not really aware of how their existing WTO obligations limited their freedom to adopt Internet-related provisions in the ITRs. Hosuk and Rohan have done both ITR negotiators and the trade community a great service with this report.”
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Rohan Samarajiva ([email protected]) is CEO of LIRNEasia, Board Member of Research ICT Africa and former Director General of Telecommunications, Sri Lanka. His full biography may be found here:http://lirneasia.net/about/profiles/rohan-samarajiva/
Hosuk Lee-Makiyama ([email protected]) is director of European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE) and former representative of Sweden to the WTO. His biography is online here:http://ecipe.org/people/hosuk-lee-makiyama
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