Bush Administration Wants Countries to Open Telecommunication Markets

Monday, April 2nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) -The Bush administration warned Mexico, Colombia, South Africa and Taiwan on Monday that it had ``serious concerns'' about their failure to open telecommunications trade.

The White House set June deadlines for Mexico and Colombia to resolve U.S. complaints. If the disputes have not been resolved by then, the administration said it would consider pushing ahead with cases in the World Trade Organization.

The administration set no deadlines for Taiwan or South Africa, but officials said they would be pushing both countries to make significant progress in the next few months.

The opening of telecommunications markets under WTO rules has been a ``driving force in opening up world markets to high-technology trade and investment,'' U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said in a statement releasing the annual review of telecommunications trade practices.

``These agreements have sparked increased competition and a dramatic growth in global networks, benefiting U.S. and foreign suppliers alike,'' Zoellick said. ``Vigorous monitoring and enforcement of these trade agreements is critical to ensuring competitive opportunities for U.S. operators.''

The administration gave Mexico until June 1 to make progress in enforcing new regulations designed to allow foreign companies to compete with Telefonos de Mexico, the telecommunications giant also known as Telmex. The new deadline marked the latest development in a long-running fight between Telmex and American companies.

The Bush administration said that unless Mexico meets the June 1 deadline it would ask for a WTO hearing panel, the next step in pursuing trade sanctions through the WTO.

The Clinton administration had indicated in December that it would request the appointment of a three-member hearing panel, but the Bush administration put that effort on hold to give the government of new Mexican President Vicente Fox more time to resolve the issue.

The White House said Colombia was refusing to license new providers of international communication services, in violation of a WTO agreement. If Colombia has not rectified the situation by June 25, the administration will consider bringing a WTO case.

The administration accused South Africa's dominant telecommunications provider, Telkom, of violating the WTO agreement by refusing to allow foreign companies to have access to its network to offer such services as high-speed Internet access.

The administration said Taiwan needs to carry through with commitments it made to open up its telecommunications market by July 1. Taiwan's membership application to the WTO is pending, along with that of China.

The report also reviewed complaints brought by U.S. companies against Germany, Italy, Spain, Britain and Japan, but it did not list those countries for possible WTO cases.

The annual report on telecommunications trade is required under a 1988 trade law which sets up a process by which the administration must formally respond to complaints about foreign trade barriers brought by the U.S. telecommunications industry.