APEC: Telecom liberalization will boost digital economy

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The APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) group will develop trading plans recognizing the central role played by the Internet and electronic commerce in trade and investment, the group said Sunday.

In the APEC Economic Leaders' Declaration issued at the end of the APEC summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, the group said it was important to provide effective trade rules for exchanging goods and services without tariffs using electronic means.

"The exponential growth in Internet connectivity and use of electronic commerce as a channel for international business require the development of trade policies that promote a networked world. The trade agreements and rules we develop now will affect the world economy of the coming decades," the declaration said.

Among the objectives that APEC proposed are significant liberalization of telecommunication regimes -- including value-added services which are necessary for e-commerce -- throughout the group.

For services critical to e-commerce, APEC members must:

-- reduce or remove limitations on the number of suppliers allowed to supply such services;

-- reduce or remove limitations on ownership and control that prevent significant foreign investment in the supply of telecommunication services;

-- prevent majority ownership or control of suppliers of other services;

-- allow equal access to markets and provide a level playing field for competing suppliers.

The declaration also urged all APEC members to adopt and implement as soon as possible the World Trade Organization (WTO) Basic Telecommunications Reference Paper, and said that APEC economies will take a leadership role in WTO negotiations to pursue liberalization in areas related to trade in the digital economy.

APEC brings together 21 nations that border the Asia-Pacific region: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Republic of the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and the United States.

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