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High-level meeting of the negotiating group on Basic Telecommunications, 6 October 1995: Statement by the Director-General of the WTO

Ministers and senior officials, responsible for telecommunications policy, at a high level meeting of the Group on 6 October, reviewed progress made to date by the World Trade Organization's Negotiating Group on Basic Telecommunications.

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They reaffirmed the importance of the multilateral trading system embodied in the WTO in delivering trade liberalization based on the MFN principle and of successful conclusion of the remaining post-Uruguay Round negotiations on services, including those on basic telecommunications.

Acknowledging the vital role of telecommunications in stimulating economic development and as an essential infrastructure for all economic and social activity, they stressed the importance of progressive liberalization of access to telecommunications markets. Economic growth and social development worldwide will benefit from such liberalization.

They recognized that the outcome of the Uruguay Round in relation to telecommunications, including the Annex on Telecommunications and the commitments scheduled by some 60 countries, had already contributed to the liberalization of trade in telecommunications, and urged the successful conclusion of the negotiations on basic telecommunications to build on this achievement.

The meeting highlighted the challenges facing governments in this rapidly developing sector, with vastly different regulatory and market regimes. In particular, it was noted that in many countries telecommunications regimes are undergoing profound and far reaching transformation, with different approaches to reform being adopted.

There was agreement that in order to ensure the widest possible dissemination of the benefits of open markets in basic telecommunications the process of progressive liberalization should be firmly grounded in multilateral principles. The objective should be comprehensive commitments on trade in basic telecommunications services, based on the principles of most-favoured-nation and national treatment. Agreement on some additional principles, for example in relation to interconnection, might be necessary or appropriate in the context of a multiplicity of regimes.

It was also recognized that the widest possible participation in the negotiations is desirable in order to secure a balanced outcome of the negotiations, to the mutual benefit of all WTO Members, developed and developing alike. Wide participation would also contribute to the strengthening of the multilateral trading system. All WTO Members were therefore invited to consider joining the Negotiating Group as full participants.

In view of the short time remaining before the April 1996 deadline agreed by Ministers for the conclusion of the negotiations on basic telecommunications, the meeting stressed the importance of strict adherence to the agreed timetable for the concluding phases of the Negotiating Group's work.