Members want liberalisation in phone traffic
RAY HEATH in Davao
Members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) forum are pushing for a liberalisation in telecommunications, signalling a potential breakthrough.
World Trade Organisation negotiations on the issue became bogged down in April following the reluctance of some Asian countries to make concessions, but Apec members now were prepared to go beyond their offers submitted in Geneva, officials of the organisation meeting in Davao said.
'Some economies offered much better terms on telecoms than they were prepared to offer in Geneva in the unfinished [WTO] negotiations on trade and communications,' an Apec official said.
After Apec's Senior Officials Meeting opened in Davao, meeting chairman Federico Macaranas said telecommunications was the area on which most economies had focused in producing individual action plans for lowering trade and tariff barriers.
'Nearly ever country is making offers to liberalise its telecommunications,' Mr Macaranas said. 'We believe that telecommunications is very vital to the Asia Pacific century.
'The region will become more dynamic if information technology and telecommunications become the basis of the service-oriented 21st century.' No details of the individual offers to allow greater competition in telecommunications were released, but they will form the basis for further talks among Apec leaders in Manila in November, when an action plan will be agreed.
The United States is pressing Apec to approve a free-trade regime also for computer and computer-related products.
Apec officials said members in their action plans had widened liberalisation beyond the four areas agreed on at the meeting in Osaka in November last year: energy, transport, telecommunications and tourism.
The head of the Philippines delegation, Edsel Custodio, said they also had addressed the opening of other markets, such as financial and business services and audio-visual products.