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WTO NEWS: 1996 PRESS RELEASES

PRESS/48
1 May 1996

WTO'S Basic Telecommunications Negotiations result in substantial offers : re-examination in early 1997

Governments participating in the Negotiations Group on Basic Telecommunications (NGBT) agreed on Tuesday to a proposition made by the WTO's Director-General to preserve the substantial offers they made for liberalizing trade in the sector and to re-examine them during a 30-day period beginning 15 January 1997.

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In a statement made at the Group's final meeting on Tuesday, Director-General Renato Ruggiero said he wished not only to preserve the results achieved so far in the negotiations, but the economic value they represent. “You have achieved a great deal in a ground-breaking negotiation, and telecom users all over the world have a right to benefit from this achievement,”  he said. He also suggested adding greater flexibility to the talks and proposed a one-month period during which participants could re-examine their positions and supplement or modify their offers to liberalize. Participants agreed to keep the date of 1 January 1998 as the date of entry into force for liberalization commitments and decided that the 30-day period should be 15 January to 15 February 1997.

Offers to liberalize domestic telecommunications regimes were made by 34 governments, counting the European Communities and its member states as one, during two years of talks which began in the spring of 1994. Another five governments participated in the talks but did not table offers. The talks, which focused on liberalizing a sector worth $513 billion in revenue in 1994, were initially set to conclude on 30 April 1996. They were held under the Chairmanship of Mr Neil McMillan of the United Kingdom.

Participants in the negotiations also adopted a “standstill” measure on Tuesday which states that up until the entry into force of the new agreement, participants “shall not take measures which would be inconsistent with their undertakings resulting from these negotiations”. Many participants decided to include regulatory principles in their offers. Finally it was agreed that a group on basic telecommunications reporting to the WTO's Council for Trade in Services would hold consultations on the implementation of this decision. It was decided that such a group would start work before the end of July this year.

*Governments which made offers during the negotiation include: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, C˘te d'Ivoire, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, European Communities and its member states, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, Switzerland, Slovak Republic, Thailand, Turkey, United States and Venezuela. Barbados, Cuba, Cyprus, Egypt and Tunisia were participants in the talks.