Trade and Industry

Sunday, 15 June 2003

WTO Telecommunications Negotiations: How Should SADC Countries Respond?

  • Year: 2003
  • Organisation: SATRN
  • Author(s): James Hodge
  • Countries and Regions: Southern African Development Community (SADC)

Negotiations on the liberalisation of telecommunications form an important part of service negotiations in the Doha Round. The negotiations cover all aspects of the telecoms sector, including fixed line public networks, mobile networks and the full range of value-added network services (VANS) such as Internet and virtual private networks. Liberalisation of trade in these sub-sectors involves removing entry barriers into the market (market access) and any discriminatory practices against foreign operators (national treatment). It applies to all forms of operations - whether it is a commercial presence in the host country or offering a cross-border service such as international voice or data traffic. Liberalisation does not include privatisation (public companies can continue to exist in a competitive environment) and does not eliminate ability to regulate the industry in a fair and impartial manner. In fact, negotiations in telecoms include a Reference Paper that lays down principles of fair regulation that countries can be asked to commit to. The Reference Paper covers regulatory principles in competitive safeguards, interconnection regulation, the allocation of scarce resources (like spectrum), universal service obligations, formation of an independent regulator and the public availability of licensing criteria.