miércoles, 17 de septiembre de 2014

The ICT sector on the eve of the seventh negotiation round of the #TTIP

After the sixth negotiation round of the TTIP, we can expect that the seventh round will end with some announcement related with the digital sector. To cut a long story short, after the sixth round it was highlighted that "work on a consolidated text has started" on telecom services and "the two sides continue to exchange views on key concepts and scope" on ICT technical trade barriers (TBT). Therefore, it would be more strange not having any news that the announcement of some kind of agreement.

What could we expect on both issues? What would be the implications for Europe?

Related to telecommunication services, we can expect the conclusion an comprehensive chapter on the matter. "La Quadrature du Net" published a document where they listed the possible topics of the chapter:
  • Regulatory authorities;
  • Authorisation and licensing;
  • Scarce resources (spectrum);
  • Access and interconnection;
  • Anti competitive practices of major suppliers;
  • Universal service;
  • Number portability;
  • Resolution of disputes;
  • Foreign shareholding (removal of foreign equity limitation)

It is a possible list, similar to the list of the telco aspects included in the EU-USA Trade Principles for ICT, but at least I miss one topic that from my point of view should be the most important issue: Net neutrality. Both sides of the Atlantic are now involved in a review of their interpretation of the concept (the FCC is reviewing the results of a public consultation on the matter; the debate of the telecom single market is still open in the EU, including the net neutrality obligations towards operators). A chapter containing half of this issues would have a clear implication: A complete review of the telecom regulation in Europe.

On the TBT side, we can only expect a partial agreement. There are two basic TBTs related to ICTs, regulations and standards. The main regulation gap between EU and the USA is related with personal data privacy. The Lisbon Council has published an excellent report on this gap. The distance looks so big on this central issue that it is difficult to expect on this round any kind of agreement on regulations. Nevertheless, we can not expect a TTIP with some kind of agreement on data regulations before the end of the year deadline: Data is central to the digital economy and it does not look that the USA lobbies are going to allow and agreement without including this topic. But an agreement on personal data privacy could have a collateral implication: A restart of the negotiations on the renewal of the EU personal data regulation.

Related to standards, things look easier. There is a close collaboration already between standardisation organisms from both side of the Atlantic due to the importance of standards in the ICT area. As the TIA (Telecom Industry Association, USA) suggests, there are previous experiences as the Mutual Recognition Agreement that could serve as the model for an agreement of a mutual recognition for standards. It would not be a surprise to have the piece of new on a standarisation collaboration framework. The implications for the EU could be a new revision of the standaristaion framework and the current network of European Standard Organisations procedures.

An equilibrated agreement of digital issues within the TTIP could benefit the ICT sector of both sides. Let us remember some numbers. In 2012, telecommunications spending in the United  States reached $1.17 trillion and $1.24 trillion in Europe, making up almost half of the $4.90 trillion global telecommunications market. There are few doubts that the sinergies that arise from both markets could boost US and EU companies if they are able to grasp the opportunity.

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