USTR Submits Proposal to WTO Regarding Trade in Services

March 31, 2003. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released a document titled "Initial Offer" [120 pages in PDF] that it submitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in which it proposes to further open access to the U.S. services sectors. The offer addresses a wide range of services, including telecommunications, information, legal, financial and accounting services.

Telecommunications services are addressed at pages 46-50 of the Initial Offer. Information services are addressed at pages 50-52. Cable services are addressed at page 52. There is also an attached item titled "Reference Paper", at pages 99-101 that further addresses telecommunications services issues, including interconnection, universal service, spectrum allocation, and independent regulators.

The USTR also released a summary [3 pages in PDF] that states that the offer "Allows foreign ownership of cable television networks and allows non-U.S. satellite companies to broadcast directly to American viewers. Expanded ability for foreign companies to provide information services, such as Internet access, directly to U.S. customers."

Robert ZoellickUSTR Robert Zoellick (at right) stated in a release that "Americans lead the world in providing top quality services that improve lives, lower prices, spark new inventions and expand consumer choices. In effect, America has made a down payment in opening services markets -- we're already reaping many of the economic benefits of being quite open ... Last summer we called on our trading partners to lower their barriers to American services. We continue to press for these barriers to be lowered so that American workers and businesses are treated fairly, and today's offer moves this process forward."

Robert Holleyman, P/CEO of the Business Software Alliance (BSA), praised the USTR offer. He stated in a release that "This offer is an important step toward achieving barrier free e-commerce within the WTO ... With the exponential growth of the Internet, barrier-free trade rules that guide the computer and related services industry is becoming increasingly critical to the industry’s ability to deliver its services abroad."

Holleyman added that "Software and computer companies, which depend on trade for their commercial viability, strongly support multilateral trade liberalization efforts through the World Trade Organization (WTO). Trade liberalization through the WTO is critical to the high tech industry’s growth and increased contribution to the world economy, and to the rapid development of the industry in lesser-developed markets."

Similarly, Caroal Ann Bischoff, General Counsel of the Competitive Telecommunications Association (CompTel), stated in a release that "We are pleased with the leadership being demonstrated by the USTR in the WTO's Doha agenda, and hope that this will encourage similar pro-competitive offers in telecommunications services ... The liberalization of services will no doubt open up billions of dollars worth of opportunities for CompTel's members and their trading partners around the world."