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ITU controlling Internet risks international trade war

Internet sprouts innovation and steers growth. Mankind has never been so passionately generous and caring for any technology. Vinton Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, Linus Torvalds, Salman Khan and others gave away their precious achievements to enrich Internet for universal good.

Primarily a cheaper option to communicate has now become the unmatched driver of prosperity worldwide. Internet is the oxygen of global trade and commerce. Internet is under attack. And so are the global orders of doing businesses beyond the borders.

LIRNEasia and European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE) have jointly studied how the increased regulation and access charges will damage the painstakingly built digital economies, if the ITU grabs Internet through amended ITRs. The study makes no mistake to remind the control-freak ITU members about their commitments to WTO and GATS.

Each country’s specific commitments in the WTO determine their obligations to provide market access (for both international interconnection and investments) under non-discriminatory terms, and 82 countries have also unilaterally agreed to open up and refrain from discriminatory measures in a so-called reference paper on basic telecommunications.

Furthermore, most countries have made commitments that forbid them from imposing restrictions on the most common forms of Internet services, and a moratorium on tariffs and equivalent fees on data transmissions (known as the WTO e-commerce moratorium) which explicitly forbids access fees for data whether they are discriminatory or not.

A violation of these WTO commitments may lead to trade retaliation from the WTO’s near-universal membership sanctioned by its dispute-settlement mechanism. The moratorium is also politically linked to pledging not to pursue certain types of intellectual property violation cases against developing countries.

The report, jointly authored by LIRNEasia’s CEO Rohan Samarajiva and ECIPE’s Director Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, can be downloaded from here.

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