EU future trade agenda in ICT products and services ready to rock and roll?

26 October 2010 Author: EIFonline

Trade in ICT products and services as well as the benefits for emerging and developing markets have become a top priority for the European economy. The role of ICT in economic growth and the knowledge and innovation economy is one of the key pillars of Europe’s 2020 strategy as well as of president Obama’s plans.

The EIF dinner debate on 26 October provided a lively platform for both industry and the European institutions to discuss remaining problems and new opportunities in this area.

Market access to electronic communications has become a crucial part of the incentive to invest. However, access restrictions in some markets prevent companies from developing their full portfolio of services. In turn, this makes them reluctant to keep investing. The European Commission’s plan for future trade policy recognizes this and highlightes that trade and investment flows are key to the diffusion of innovation and new technologies. This means that one must look at trade as an enabling process and not as a hindrance.Technical developments however often move faster than the development of the regulatory framework.

On the services side, Europe is pushing for full liberalization of telecom and computer services in a technology neutral way. The worst thing that could happen is if market access became limited to specific technologies, like in cable versus satellite technology. In the area of goods tedious disputes withing the framework of the WTO on classification has now come to an end and Europe is seeking a strong review on the technology agreement in order to further bring down Non-tariff barriers (NTBs).

Trade barriers are not always easy to spot. In some countries for instance Voice over IP (VOIP) is not allowed which results in a patchwork of access that does not help industry nor consumers. Another recent example is the way that China prevented its citizens from accessing and redirected traffic to Such filtering can also be a trade barrier.

The future trade plans of the European Commission will be published on the 9th of November in a Communication. The Communication should provide conclusions on the various negotiations like the DOHA round, bilateral negotiation conclusions and more continuity to the overall trade policy, with a focus on enforcement of existing agreements, a stronger emphasis on key strategic partners like China, US, Russia and Japan, partially on the NTBs.


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