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United States-European Union Trade Principles For Information and Communication Technology Services

April 04, 2011

Washington, D.C. – A U.S. government negotiating team led by the Office of the United States Trade Representative today reached agreement with the European Commission on a set of non-binding trade-related principles for information and communication technology (ICT) services. The United States and the European Union (EU) will jointly promote the adoption of these principles by other countries.

The principles agreed today will, if widely adopted, support the global development of ICT services, including Internet and other network-based applications that are critical to innovative e-commerce, Internet search and advertising, data storage, and other services. The principles address transparency in legislation and regulation; open access to networks and applications; the free flow of information across borders; foreign investment in ICT sectors; facilitating the cross-border supply of services; the efficiency of spectrum allocation; the independence of regulatory authorities; the granting of operating licenses; interconnection between suppliers of basic public telecommunication services; and international cooperation. Each of the principles expresses an approach to policy and regulation in the ICT sector that is broadly shared by the United States and the EU. The text of the principles can be found here.

United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk praised the finalization of the ICT trade principles. “This is an important initiative. It stands to benefit some of our most valuable, cutting-edge industries – industries that are having a transformative effect on other sectors of our economy, and empowering workers and consumers worldwide,” said Ambassador Kirk. “We and the EU have many similar policies in the ICT sector. We also share an interest in encouraging the development of a trade framework that will help our service providers continue to grow, prosper, and innovate. By finding common language to describe the policies we share, we’ve positioned ourselves to collaborate more effectively in advocating those policies internationally.”

The decision to develop the new U.S.-EU Trade Principles for ICT Services was taken by the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC), a grouping of U.S. cabinet officials and European Commissioners that meets periodically to shape and advance a broad agenda of U.S.-EU economic cooperation initiatives. The TEC is co-chaired on the U.S. side by Deputy National Security Advisor Michael Froman, and on the EU side by Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. Ambassador Kirk and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro participate in TEC meetings, and Ambassador Sapiro and Under Secretary of State Robert Hormats coordinate U.S. government work on TEC issues between meetings.

The ICT services sector – a rapidly growing source of employment and exports in its own right – is an increasingly important part of the infrastructure for a host of other industries and sectors. A wider international embrace of policy principles that have promoted the development of the U.S. and EU sector will stimulate the global spread of network-based services. That will benefit U.S. firms and their employees, and help reinforce U.S. leadership in this innovative sector. It will also spur the worldwide development of services that help workers be more productive, decrease the cost of doing business, promote the growth of new industries, revitalize older industries, and improve the lives of consumers.

The importance and timeliness of the new U.S.-EU principles is underscored by recent foreign government actions to limit the availability of ICT services, including by placing restrictions on access to spectrum, limiting the number of telecommunications licenses available to foreign service providers, blocking voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) phone calls, and requiring the use of local network infrastructure and servers to deliver services that can be supplied across borders.