REGARDING E-COMMERCE, TELECOMMUNICATIONS
AND COMPUTER AND RELATED SERVICES TO
THE USTR REQUEST
FOR COMMENTS ON
OBJECTIVES FOR WTO SERVICES NEGOTIATIONS
Office of the United States Trade Representative has requested comments on
general U.S. negotiating objectives as well as country and item-specific
export priorities for agriculture and services for use by the U.S. government
in formulating U.S. positions and objectives for U.S. participation in the
WTO negotiations. The USCIB
would like to offer the views of our members in the following areas: Electronic Commerce,
Telecommunications and Computer and Related Services.
members share a common interest in exploring with the U.S. government the
ways that the WTO can be used to promote the development of e-commerce. Our mutual exploration exercise
should include efforts: (1) to promote the development of the infrastructure
that is necessary to conduct e-commerce; (2) to promote the development of
trade in goods and services via e-commerce; and (3) to prevent the
establishment of new barriers to e-commerce during and after the Services
e-commerce is a new and dynamic medium to deliver goods and services, the
exploratory process should proceed in a deliberate and comprehensive
manner. In that regard, USCIB
members view the following comments as part of an ongoing dialogue among industry,
government, and other stakeholders that will take place formally and
informally in the coming months before the U.S. government submits any formal
negotiating proposals on electronic commerce in the WTO.
(1) To promote
the development of e-commerce infrastructure, USCIB members urge the U.S.
its efforts to conclude the ITA II agreement; and
further liberalization in the Services 2000 negotiations of a cluster of services associated with
the infrastructure needed for a business-to-business and business-to-consumer
e-commerce value chain, including, for example, computer, telecommunications,
distribution, advertising, financial, and delivery services.
and value added telecommunications services and financial services are
particularly critical components of an e-commerce value chain
infrastructure. In both sectors,
WTO members have made significant commitments, including sector-specific
agreements (GATS Telecom Annex, GATS Basic Telecom Agreement, and GATS Financial
Services Agreement), that serve as a basic and necessary foundation for all
e-commerce activity around the world.
In the current round of GATS negotiations, all WTO members should
strive for broader and deeper commitments in all subsectors of telecommunications
and financial services in order to promote the development of the
infrastructure needed for e-commerce specifically and global trade
To promote the development of
trade via e-commerce, USCIB members urge the U.S. government to:
-- continue to
pursue formal recognition in the WTO that current commitments under the WTO
Agreements including GATT, GATS and TRIPS,apply to electronic
further liberalization in the Services 2000 negotiations of the services that
can be delivered via e-commerce, including, for example, consultancy,
professional, education, and energy services.
prevent the development of new barriers to e-commerce pending the completion
of negotiations, USCIB members urge the U.S. government to:
-- pursue a standstill commitment not to impose new
restrictions that could adversely affect e-commerce during the course of the
adoption of the WTO 1998-99 work program on e-commerce that resulted in a
number of recommendations, including, for example the need to avoid unnecessary barriers to e-commerce.
extension of the practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic
the continuation of the work
program on electronic commerce within the WTO.
traditional role of the WTO – and its predecessor, the GATT – has been to
reduce and eliminate barriers to trade.
This is a role that the WTO can play for e-commerce by providing a
forum in which Members can negotiate new commitments to reduce barriers to
e-commerce, as described in (1) and (2) above, and enforce existing
commitments that protect e-commerce through the WTO Dispute Settlement
there is a new role for the WTO to play with respect to e-commerce: to prevent
the development of barriers to e-commerce that currently do not exist. It is very important that the
WTO begin playing this role now -- at the outset of the Services 2000
negotiations and prior to the launching of a new round of negotiations for all
WTO agreements, as described in (3) above.
worked closely with the U.S. Government during the Uruguay Round in
identifying objectives for commitments for value-added telecommunications
services and in developing the GATS Telecommunications Annex
the sector-specific negotiations on basic telecommunications, USCIB provided
significant input on the critical mass of countries needed to successfully
conclude the negotiations, the development of the Reference Paper on regulatory
principles, and on the need for clarification in the scheduling of
commitments on basic telecommunications. USCIB fully supported and appreciated the efforts of the
U.S. negotiating team in bringing these negotiations to a successful
conclusion in 1997. USCIB members believe that liberalization of
telecommunications services and facilities must continue to be a top priority
for the United States services negotiating objectives because of the dual
role that telecommunications plays as a distinct sector and as the necessary
infrastructure for the delivery or transport of other goods and services,
including via the Internet and e-commerce. Opening markets for telecommunications also benefits
consumers worldwide by bringing increased choices and lower prices.
Implementation of Existing Commitments
submitted comments to USTR in December 1999 in response to a Federal Register
request asking for identification of significant barriers to U.S. exports of
services for inclusion in the National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade
Barriers. We continue to be
concerned that several countries are not implementing their existing
commitments and that some countries have not yet accepted the Fourth
Protocol: Brazil, Philippines, Dominica,
Guatemala, and Papua New Guinea.
As the new negotiations commence, consideration should be given to the
extent to which countries have met their current obligations with respect to
their market access and national treatment commitments and implementation of
the Reference Paper on pro-competitive regulatory principles. In our December comments, we
identified specific implementation concerns regarding the commitments of 21
countries on basic telecommunications.
Objectives for the Services 2000 Negotiations
new services round, USCIB member companies would like to see improvements in existing basic
telecom commitments and as well as first-time commitments from WTO Members
that have not made telecom commitments in the past. . USCIB proposes the following general
market access commitments
Several countries committed to a narrow opening of their
markets and did not include all domestic and international telecommunications
services on a technology neutral basis.
Some countries, for example, guaranteed market access for private
voice networks, but not for public voice, and some committed to all voice but
only using wireless technology with terrestrial wireline and satellite
delivery excluded or subject to a delayed opening. USCIB has long advocated "quality" commitments
including market access for facilities-based and private networks as well as
resale. Countries must commit to
full service market access. This
is particularly important in light of the convergence of services made
possible by advanced digital technology.
Countries with commitments for market access that are not
effective until post- 2001 should move up their implementation dates. Although some countries, recognizing
the benefits of competition and open markets, have opened their markets prior
to the dates in their schedules, a number of key markets for U.S. companies
have not scheduled commitments until after 2002 and have no plans to open
their markets sooner.
to the Reference Paper on Regulatory Principles
For companies to compete fairly and effectively, countries
should be urged to commit to the Reference Paper for basic telecommunications
services in its entirety.
or elimination of foreign ownership restrictions
Significant progress in decreasing foreign ownership
restrictions was obtained during the Basic Telecommunications
negotiations. In many countries,
however, foreign ownership restrictions continue to apply for some services
or all services. USCIB is assessing priorities for this round for further
reducing foreign ownership restrictions.
from additional countries
Of the 136 WTO members, 80 governments have made some
telecommunications market access commitments covering either basic or
value-added services. USCIB is
in the process of identifying additional priority countries.
Value Added Telecommunications:
of countries made commitments as part of the Uruguay Round to open their
markets for the provision of value added telecommunications. U.S. companies
benefit significantly from having market access for value added
services. For example, such
access facilitates on-line information and data processing services, as well
as electronic mail and voice mail. USCIB seeks and advocates further
liberalization in the provision of value added services in the Services 2000
Round. Accordingly, USCIB members urge the U.S. to pursue negotiating
objectives for value added telecommunications services that are very similar
to those listed above for basic telecommunications, namely:
market access commitments that cover the full range of value added services;
or elimination of foreign ownership restrictions; and
from additional countries.
COMPUTER AND RELATED SERVICES
electronic commerce constitutes the large majority of e-commerce today and
most likely for the foreseeable future (estimates say business-to-business
e-commerce constitutes 80-85% of total e-commerce). There is no question that business-to-business electronic
commerce is redefining the way industries conduct their business. The transition from paper-based to
electronic transactions and physical delivery to electronic delivery of
products and services is resulting in significant efficiency and productivity
gains that ultimately benefit consumers.
the significant impact that computer and related services play in ensuring
the continued growth of
electronic commerce at the business and consumer levels, and its
resulting benefits on society and the global economy, USCIB members urge the
U.S. Government to encourage WTO member governments to schedule meaningful
market-opening commitments in computer and related services. At a minimum meaningful
market-opening commitments would include:
liberalization no later than December 31, 2003; and
of foreign ownership restrictions.
Thank you for the opportunity to share our views with you
and we look forward to continuing to work with you during the Services 2000
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to
discuss our comments in more detail.