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OPINION A - The implications of the GATS with respect to basic telecommunication services for the ITU membership

The Second World Telecommunication Policy Forum (Geneva, 1998),


a) that each Member State has the sovereign right to regulate its own telecommunication sector, in accordance with the ITU Constitution and Convention, and to set its own timetable for adapting to market liberalization;

b) that, in addition, ITU Member States that are also members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are obliged, under its General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), to apply the general principle of most-favoured nation (MFN) treatment to services and service suppliers of other WTO members except where individual exemptions were specified;

c) that WTO members which have made commitments under the agreement on basic telecommunication services, and which entered, in part or in full, into additional commitments contained in the WTO reference paper, undertook substantial obligations towards liberalization of their telecommunication sector and a predictable regulatory framework, including the operation of an independent regulatory body,


a) that effective telecommunication networks and low-cost, high quality services are vital to the functioning and development of modern economies, fundamental to business activity and efficient government, and a critical enabler of the emerging world of electronic commerce;

b) that implementation of a telecommunication sector adapted to its environment, within a transparent and predictable regulatory framework, has the potential to provide new and improved services and lower prices for consumers, as well as to increase investments in this sector, from both domestic and foreign sources, and should improve the overall business environment for telecommunication service providers and companies using their services;

c) that the GATS provisions with respect to basic telecommunications will have an impact on all ITU Member States and Sector Members either directly by their participation in the agreement or indirectly through their commercial relationships with operators in countries which have made commitments under the agreement;

d) that in addressing the challenge of narrowing the development gap, and of the transition from traditional to new structures, account should be taken of different national contexts,

recommends ITU Member States

to consider, where appropriate, whether application of WTO principles, notably those contained in the Reference Paper (attached for information), either in a national framework or by making commitments within the WTO framework, might be helpful in benefiting their economies,

invites the ITU Secretary-General

1 to accelerate action required by Kyoto Resolution 1 and, to this effect, while respecting ITU Members' independence of action, to cooperate with the WTO secretariat in identifying areas of common interest, with particular emphasis on regulatory matters, technical studies and development matters, that may foster the purposes of both organizations, and to utilize and give a higher profile to expertise existing in the Sectors of the Union;

2 to report to the forthcoming Council regarding progress made in this respect;

3 to prepare, in cooperation with the WTO secretariat, a draft cooperation agreement for consideration by the Council and the 1998 Plenipotentiary Conference;

4 to take action, where appropriate, in cooperation with other international organizations, towards facilitating informal dialogue among policy-makers and regulators to foster adaptation to the changing environment,

invites the ITU Council

to invite WTO to take account of the urgency attached to the conclusion of a cooperation agreement between WTO and ITU on areas of common interest.

 Attachment: WTO reference paper