U.S. slams China, Japan, India over telecom market access

A report by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has rebuked several countries, most notably China, Japan and India, for hampering the access of U.S. companies to their domestic markets for telecommunications services and equipment.

“We are deeply concerned by the tepid commitment some of our trade partners have shown to competition in the telecommunications sector,” said Peter Allgeier, the acting U.S. trade representative, in a prepared statement. Allgeier’s comments accompanied the results of an annual USTR review — known as a section 1377 review — of foreign compliance with international telecommunications agreements.

USTR singled out China, Japan and India for criticism, saying that operators from these countries were competing globally while benefitting from relatively closed markets at home. “It is very hard to see a legitimate reason why these markets should not be open to full and effective competition,” Allgeier said.

Among the issues that concern the U.S. government, USTR cited restrictions on capitalization levels and joint ventures in China and criticized Japan’s failure to allocate additional spectrum for mobile operators. USTR also cited excessive licensing requirements for new market entrants and a failure to address restrictions on access to submarine cable capacity in India.

China, Japan and India weren’t the only countries faulted by the USTR review. Other countries cited for criticism were: Germany (excessive interconnection rates and restricted leased-line access and use), Mexico (excessive interconnection rates and burdensome testing and certification requirements), Peru (excessive interconnection rates), Switzerland (excessive interconnection rates), Colombia (excessive regulatory requirements) and South Korea (burdensome testing and certification requirements and limited choice of technology for suppliers).

USTR hopes to resolve many of these matters through bilateral discussions, but officials held out the possibility it would seek to redress some of these issues through international dispute settlement mechanisms. Other issues may soon be resolved, according to USTR. Moves are already underway by some of these countries to resolve these issues, it said.

USTR plans to watch these expected moves closely, it said. Those developments include a new telecommunications law and allocation of spectrum for new mobile services in China, Japanese plans to allocate new spectrum for mobile operators later this year, and an expected decision on interconnection rates in Germany, it said.