Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements


Explanation of the Annex on telecommunications

The Annex is composed of seven sections, but its core obligations are contained in a section on access to and use of “public telecommunications transport networks and services” (meaning essentially basic public telecommunications).

The Annex requires each Member to ensure that all service suppliers seeking to take advantage of scheduled commitments are accorded access to and use of public basic telecommunications, both networks and services, on reasonable and non-discriminatory basis.

Members incur these obligations whether or not they have liberalized or scheduled commitments in the basic telecommunications sector. This is because the Annex addresses access to these services by users rather than the ability to enter markets to sell such services; the latter is addressed in schedules of commitments. As such, the beneficiaries of the disciplines in the Annex will be firms that supply any of the services included in a Member's schedule of commitments; not only be value-added and competing basic telecommunications suppliers, but banking or computer services firms, for example, that wish to take advantage of market access commitments made by a WTO Member. The annex obligations strike a fragile balance between the needs of users for fair terms of access and the needs of the regulators and public telecommunications operators to maintain a system that works and that meets public service objectives.