USTR criticizes telecom reform in 11 nations

InfoWorld |  Government

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) published its annual report on foreign compliance with telecommunications trade agreements Monday and hit out at a handful of nations for not living up to the agreements. The U.S. threatened several nations with sanctions if progress is not made by specified dates.

The USTR annual review, which examines obstacles that remain towards the expansion of U.S. telecommunications carriers into foreign markets despite trade agreements that are in place, highlighted complaints against 10 nations: Colombia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

The most stinging criticism in the report was reserved for Colombia, Mexico, South Africa, and Taiwan, and the first two nations were given deadlines. Colombia was given a deadline of June 25 to begin issuing licenses to new international carriers or face possible action at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The United States said Mexico has until June 1 to show progress in a number of issues, including interconnection costs and the dominance of Teléfonos de México (Telmex), or face an escalation of WTO action begun last year.

The United States said the failure of Telkom South Africa to open up its network raises questions about its commitment to WTO obligations, while regulations in Taiwan impose "serious limitations" on competitive telecommunications services. The United States said it would consider WTO action if an ongoing review of local regulations did not lead to liberalization by July 1, a date previously agreed with the U.S.

The annual report also noted problems in several European Union nations, but actions taken by local regulators in many of the nations, aimed at reducing the power of the dominant carrier, saved them from harsher criticism.

Japan was also taken to task over several issues, many of which have been ongoing concerns for a number of years, including the unbundling of the local loop, interconnection rates, burdensome licensing requirements, independence of the regulator, and the lack of effective rights of way regulations.

The report can be found online at www.ustr.gov.

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