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First Plenary Session: “Building Confidence”

Title: “Achievements in Liberalisation, Globally and in Germany”

After three years, multilateral negotiations on the liberalisation of telecommunications services within the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) were successfully completed in Geneva on 15 February 1997. 70 countries, including the European Union and its member states, the United States, Japan and many other countries in Asia and Latin America have now committed themselves to opening up their markets on a reciprocal basis. These countries account for more than 90% of world trade in this sector. The global market for telecommunications services is valued at more than US$ 600 billion and will continue to grow strongly in the years ahead.

In this accord the WTO members pledge to grant foreign telecommunications companies access to their domestic markets and offer them investment and participation opportunities as of 1 January 1998. Furthermore, they will give foreign companies the same treatment as domestic ones, and will guarantee certain regulation and competition principles in their domestic markets. These include interconnection between domestic and foreign carriers, non-discriminatory and transparent licensing, and separation of operational and regulatory functions.

With the adoption of the new Telecommunications Act in July 1996, Germany has already in advance taken a major step to implement the liberalisation commitments. The network monopoly of Deutsche Telekom AG was lifted in August 1996, its voice telephony monopoly will end on December 31st 1997. Germany will become on of the most liberalised telecommunication markets world-wide. Foreign companies will enter this biggest European telecommunication market freely, there will be no foreign ownership restriction at all.

In adopting this comprehensive package of liberalisation commitments the signatories have provided an opportunity for telecommunications operators to expand their activities abroad and to offer new telecommunications services there. In the medium term phone calls will become cheaper. Increased competition between carriers will also lead to more efficient and better telecommunications solutions, and expected growth in this sector will create new jobs. Furthermore, the successful completion of the WTO negotiations will play a considerable role in the creation of the information society.

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