GSMA says WTO doesn’t love mobile nearly as much as it should

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The GSMA has urged members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to do more to deregulate the mobile sector and adopt pro-investment policies so mobile operators can be free to get on with the important business of connecting customers, boosting everyone’s GDP by a few trillion dollars and making the world a better place.

At the 11th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference, GSMA Director General Mats Granryd called on government leaders to reform their regulatory frameworks in order to encourage a new wave of innovation and investment in digital infrastructure and services.

Currently, 108 of the WTO’s 164 members have made commitments to facilitate trade in telecoms services, such as the right to establish new telecoms companies, make foreign direct investment in existing companies and enable the cross-border transmission of telecoms services. But that’s only 65% of WTO members, and that’s not nearly enough, said Granryd.

“Today, more than 5.1 billion people – about two-thirds of the world’s population – subscribe to mobile services. With this broad reach, the mobile industry is a major driver in the global economy, expected to employ nearly 31 million people worldwide and contribute $4.2 trillion in economic value (4.9% of GDP) in 2020,” Granryd said in a statement. “However, the continued growth of the mobile ecosystem is far from guaranteed, particularly if we do not address the outdated and inflexible regulatory frameworks currently in place in many countries around the world. It is imperative that governments take the steps now to encourage investment in our digital future and spur digital trade.”

The GSMA said it was vital that government ministers consider how adopting a future-facing digital framework can drive future trade, growth and inclusion. Recognizing the enabling power of mobile, many governments have set bold policies to cultivate the digital economy while ensuring that the benefits of connectivity reach remote and underserved communities. Forward-thinking WTO members are already making commitments to facilitate trade in telecoms services, extend competition in basic telecoms and adopt the regulatory principles for sector reform, which largely reflect “best practice” in telecoms regulation.

The GSMA urges all WTO members to not only adopt and apply existing WTO best practice principles, but also take additional steps to transform national rules and regulations to reflect today’s market realities.

On behalf of the broad mobile ecosystem – which arguably determines the totality of life on this planet – the GSMA calls on WTO members to:

  1. Encourage network investment with a clear broadband development policy and an investment-friendly spectrum policy
  2. Promote economic growth through harmonised international privacy and data protection rules, protecting individuals’ privacy and enabling cross-border data flows
  3. Update their regulatory frameworks to reflect this new digitalized world, focusing on ex post approaches rather than ex ante prescriptive regulation, coupled with regulatory consistency throughout the ecosystem.

“Based on our experience in bringing mobile services to billions of people worldwide, the mobile industry has identified a set of global principles and policy recommendations to further stimulate digital market growth. What we need now is the support of the governments to harness the full transformative potential of mobile for the benefit of national economies and societies,” said Granryd.

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