On the occasion of 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.
"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 per cent of GDP) in 2020," said Granryd. "However, the continued growth of the mobile ecosystem is far from guaranteed, particularly if we do not address the outdated and inflexible regulatory frameworks currently in place in many countries around the world.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."
As government ministers meet this week, it is vital that they consider how adopting a future-facing digital framework can drive future trade, growth and inclusion. Recognising 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, 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; and
3. Update their regulatory frameworks to reflect this new digitalised 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," continued Granryd.
GSMA Hosts Digital Economy Forum at WTO
Alongside the WTO Ministerial Conference this week, the GSMA is hosting the summit "Digital Economy Forum: Driving Growth, Regional Trade & Inclusion in Latin America", in partnership with the Argentina Ministry for Modernisation and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. The half-day programme is designed to highlight the key opportunities and challenges facing regulators across the region as they make the transition to digital economies, including trade, competition and digital policies. The event will also showcase the GSMA We Care campaign, a joint effort and commitment by Latin American mobile operators to actively support and boost the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in Latin America.
"Regulation and public policy have a key role to play in fostering the digital economy by expanding investment and facilitating trade," said Sebastián Cabello, Head of Latin America, GSMA. "As the digital economy continues to grow and thrive, our challenge is to create a regulatory framework that allows for changing market dynamics and technological advances."
About the GSMA
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with more than 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as Mobile World Congress, Mobile World Congress Shanghai, Mobile World Congress Americas and the Mobile 360 Series of conferences.