UN/ECE Telecommunications Initiative

UN/ECE Working party 6  invited Telecom Ministries and Communications Regulatory Agencies  to  a  Regulatory convergence dialogue for ICT Equipment ("Telecome Initiative") expert meeting with public authorities in Geneva May 27- 28, 2003. This meeting arose  from the “Telecom Industry Initiative” supported by the UNECE Working Party on Technical Harmonization and Standardization Policies (Working Party 6) at its annual session in October 2002  UNECE Member States were invited to examine  proposals and to participate in regulatory convergence activities following the principles embodied in the WP.6 Recommendation “L”  AN INTERNATIONAL MODEL FOR TECHNICAL HARMONISATION BASED ON GOOD REGULATORY PRACTICE FOR THE PREPARATION, ADOPTION AND APPLICATION OF TECHNICAL REGULATIONS VIA THE USE OF INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS". Significant at  this meeting  was the interest of Russia and the selection of  Nuno Encarnacao from Switzerland as chair.  The United States representatives  to UN/ECE WP6  have expressed certain reservations with the International Model and did not attend. 

In July, 2003 informal unofficial correspondence with GTW Associates President Willingmyre, Mr Encarnacao shared an introduction to the “Telecom Initiative”  based on  his  presentation during a  UNECE workshop of April 2003 and  expanded to enable a more clear understanding of the main topics in this project.   and some personal observations of the challenges and opportunities confronting the TI   of WP6.  (Mr Encarnacao comments in italics below)

"I have seen some doubts on UNECE WP6, since WTO is working in a more global approach.     [ GTW note see for example the WTO Committee of Participants on the Expansion of Trade in Information Technology Products  EMC and EMI workshop in Geneva  April 23 and 24, 2003.  This is the most recent activity in the non tariff measures work of ITA2 in compiling  an inventory of non-tariff measures which have been identified by participants as impediments to trade in ITA products and  examining  the economic and developmental impact of such measures on trade in ITA products ]  I understand and see also that, if WTO can solve timely all the problems, probably UNECE does not need to exist, but for the moment this is not the case.  [ GTW note: One of the US concerns about the WP6 initiative according to a May 2001 letter to US Department of Commerce Secretary Donald  Evans and Trade Representative Robert Zoelick, “this work is redundant to existing work and current obligations in the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee and could ultimately undermine these obligations and future work. ]

My intension is, in this context, to underline the complementarity of the TI in relation to the WTO approach. I see this TI as a platform to build trust among different countries in specific areas and using a pragmatic way. The CROs [ GTW note Common Regulatory Objectives ] because they have limited scope and country representatives may support some and not support others, offer an additional flexibility for experts to progress understanding more detailed implications for each product type. We are not proposing the countries a change of regime, we are proposing them to study with us the most relevant market products in our Telecom sector and see how far we can converge in Common Regulatory Objectives. We also offer the interesting experience of the convergence of approximately 30 countries (European Union and other countries adopting the same regime).

This facilitates a "step-by-step" / "bottom-up" approach, which I believe complements the WTO "top-down" global approach.     

Furthermore, having such a pragmatic approach, I believe that the implementation of the WTO principles will be made earlier and with better acceptance by market players. I even hope that after a series of well-accepted CROs, the WTO work, based on real market experiences, can progress quicker and better.   

One important message I also wish to transmit is the difference existing between

- the need for the industry to standardise technical solutions in order to share investments over wider accepted applications and products and

- the need for NA [ GTW note National Authorities ] to keep and respect strictly their Legitimate Concerns [LAC].  

Very often there is a confusion, because NA often use standards to express their LAC and, if this is made without clear and strict criteria in a internationally coordinated manner, may easily lead to additional construction of Technical Barriers to Trade.

Future meetings of the TI activity are tentatively set for October 7 and November 13, 2003 . GTW Associates understands the UN/ECE Model International Model  is also under consideration by the heavy equipment and off road vehicle global industry sector and a first meeting of a WP6 meeting in this sector is set for September 10.

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