round negotiations: 1994 to 1996, a second attempt back
Ministers hoped that through the extension more liberalization could be
captured as the negotiations could take into account some of the reforms
under way in telecommunications regulatory regimes and rapid advances in
technology. The negotiations began in May 1994, initially with the
participation of 33 WTO Member governments, under the auspices of a group
called the Negotiating Group on Basic Telecommunications (NGBT). The
Ministerial Decision directed the negotiations to conclude by 30 April
1996. Participation in the NGBT was voluntary and, by the end of April, 53
WTO Member governments had decided to participate fully in the Group.
Another 24 governments (including some in the process of accession to the
WTO) requested to participate with observer status.
By April, the talks had resulted in offers from 48 governments
(contained in 34 offers), but some saw the package as not yet sufficient
to successfully complete the talks.
At the meeting in April 1996, WTO Director-General Ruggiero said he
wished to preserve the results achieved so far in the negotiations. He
suggested attaching the results to a Protocol and the establishment of a
one-month period early in 1997 during which participants could re-examine
their positions on market access and m.f.n. treatment and modify their
attachments to the Protocol. Participants accepted the Director-General's
proposal in a Decision adopted 30 April by the Council for Trade in
Services. The Decision affirmed the opportunity to negotiate further to
try to secure improvements and established 15 February 1997 as the closing
date. After April, a new body — the Group on Basic Telecommunications (GBT)
— was responsible for implementing the further extension of
negotiations. This Group agreed to modify the rules on participation in
meetings so that all WTO Members had a full voice in its activities and
only those governments under accession to the WTO participated, upon
request, as observers.
round negotiations: 1996 to 1997, the third attempt is a success back
The talks resumed in July 1996 and then in the autumn of 1996
participants met monthly and held numerous bilateral negotiations on their
market access offers. They also maintained informal contacts at the
December 1996 WTO Ministerial Meeting in Singapore and returned to Geneva
in January 1997 to prepare to meet the February deadline. Following the
successful outcome, participants devoted the remainder of the year to
conducting domestic procedures, if necessary, for accepting the Protocol
and to preparing for implementation of the commitments made.
Fourth Protocol back
Fourth Protocol, to which the schedules and MFN exemptions lists tabled in
February 1997 were annexed, was initially open for acceptance until 30
November 1997, a deadline which was later extended to 31 July 1998 to
allow some remaining participants to complete ratification.
Protocol and its annexed documents entered into force on 5 February 1998.
On that date, the schedules on basic telecommunication services of the
signatories became an integral part of the GATS schedules of services
commitments already in force since the Uruguay Round concluded in 1994.
a number of schedules, a Member's commitments for particular services are
to be “phased in”. For these, while the schedule formally entered into
force on the date of the Protocol as a whole, the actual implementation
date for such commitments will be on the date specified in the schedule.
reference paper back
related to establishing a regulatory environment conducive to market entry
were discussed at length during the negotiations. Many participants
suggested that regulatory disciplines might be inscribed as additional
commitments in schedules as a way of safeguarding the value of
market-access commitments undertaken. Participants succeeded in
elaborating a set of principles covering matters such as competition
safeguards, interconnection guarantees, transparent licensing processes,
and the independence of regulators in a commonly negotiated text called
the Reference Paper. They also agreed that each would use the text as a
tool in deciding what regulatory disciplines to undertake as additional
commitments. By the February 1997 deadline, 63 of the 69 governments
submitting schedules included commitments on regulatory disciplines, with
57 of these committing to the Reference Paper in whole or with a few
modifications. This compares favourable with the April1996 results, when
44 out of the 48 governments submitting offers included commitments on
regulatory disciplines and only 31 of these inscribed the Reference Paper.