United States Brussels, 4 April 2011
Digital Agenda/Trade: EU and US agree trade-related information and communication technology principles to be promoted worldwide
The European Commission and the US Government, under the framework of the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC), have agreed on a set of ten fundamental principles for trade in information and communication technology (ICT) services. The EU and the US, in cooperation with other countries, will promote these principles worldwide in order to support the global development of ICT networks & services and allow service providers to compete for contracts with local incumbents on an equal footing.
European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht welcomed these principles as an important milestone in implementing the Commission's Future Trade Policy Communication (MEMO/10/555) and Europe's Digital Agenda (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200).
Neelie Kroes said "These principles, which both the EU and the US will seek to incorporate in their trade agreements with other countries, will help to ensure that trade rules are used as an effective tool to open up ICT markets worldwide to the benefit of all businesses and consumers".
Karel De Gucht said "The principles agreed today are an excellent example to demonstrate the important role the TEC can play in bringing transatlantic convergence activities to a higher political level. This will also help us when engaging with other trade partners".
The EU and US will now promote common principles such as transparency, open networks, flows of cross-border information, non-discriminatory use of local infrastructure, efficient and non-discriminatory use of spectrum, and the like. The principles will support EU and US efforts to raise the profile of ICT services in bilateral agreements as well as in the WTO. Cooperation between the EU and the US in the TEC has been instrumental in achieving this outcome.
The EU-US Trade Principles for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Services can be summarised as follows:
- Transparency of rules affecting trade in ICT and ICT services
- Open networks for consumers to access and distribute information, applications and services of their choice
- Cross-border flows of information
- No requirement to use local infrastructure for ICT services
- Governments should allow full foreign participation in their ICT services sector, through establishment or other means
- Efficient and maximised use of radio spectrum
- Independence of regulatory authorities overseeing ICT services
- Simple authorisation of competitive telecommunications services
- ICT service suppliers must have the right to interconnect with other service providers for access to publicly available telecommunications networks and services. Public telecom services suppliers should be able to negotiate and obtain interconnection with major suppliers at cost-oriented, non-discriminatory and transparent rates.
- International cooperation with a view to increasing the level of digital literacy in third countries and reducing the 'digital divide'.
The EU and the US intend to cooperate with third countries to enhance national regulatory capacity and support the global development of ICT networks and services. Implementation of these principles by countries worldwide would not only allow European and US companies to benefit from much better commercial opportunities, but also allow the people living in these countries to benefit from lower and more competitive prices for ICT services, and to enjoy access to a wider range of technologies.
For example, market access in a number of countries is hindered by the licensing regimes currently applied, which favour domestic companies. Promoting a simplified authorisation scheme would allow foreign companies to compete on the merits. Another example regards the provision of satellite services. European satellite providers are world leaders, but in many countries foreign firms are allowed to deliver services only once the capacity of national satellites is exhausted. Application of the EU-US principle relating to local infrastructure would avoid such discrimination.
The EU-US Trade Principles for ICT Services have been agreed on a best endeavour basis and do not affect the rights of the EU or the US to maintain their respective policy approaches to the protection of intellectual property, privacy and personal data and the enhancement of cultural diversity. The principles will be reviewed every two years and are without prejudice to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rights and obligations and exceptions under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
The TEC met December last under the co-chairmanship of Commissioner De Gucht and Deputy National Security Advisor Mike Froman. Since its creation in 2007 the TEC has been the central political platform for EU-US cooperation on regulatory and economic strategy issues. Its main objectives are to further transatlantic regulatory convergence, thus helping to prevent barriers to trade and investment, in particular in key emerging sectors. The TEC is also meant to facilitate coordinated approaches to other markets. The principles agreed today can be seen as a concrete step in this direction.