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Ministerial Press Statement at APEC Telmin3


A Meeting of APEC Ministers responsible for the Telecommunications and Information Industry was convened in Singapore from June 3 to 5, 1998. Delegations from the 18 APEC member economies; namely, Australia; Brunei  ...

A Meeting of APEC Ministers responsible for the Telecommunications and Information Industry was convened in Singapore from June 3 to 5, 1998. Delegations from the 18 APEC member economies; namely, Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; the People's Republic of China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; the Republic of Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; the Republic of the Philippines; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand and the United States of America participated in the Meeting.

In addition, representatives from three APEC Members-Designate; Peru, Russia and Vietnam, attended the meeting.

Representatives of the APEC Secretariat and Observers from the Pacific Economic Co-operation Council, the South Pacific Forum and ASEAN were also present.

The Meeting was opened by His Excellency Mr Goh Chok Tong, Prime Minister of Singapore, and chaired by the Honourable Mah Bow Tan, Minister for Communications, Singapore.

Ministers appreciated the recognition by Leaders and Ministers responsible for Trade during their 1997 meetings of the importance of the telecommunications and information sectors and of the need for expanded telecommunications and information infrastructure and services to support sustainable economic and social development throughout in the region.

In particular, Ministers welcomed and responded positively to:

  • Leaders' call to conclude a Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) for Telecommunications Equipment as a model sector for early voluntary sectoral liberalisation;

  • Leaders' recognition of electronic commerce as one of the most important developments of the decade and as a new driver for the rollout of telecommunications and information services;

  • Leaders' recognition of the innovative approach of the APEC Working Group on Telecommunications (TEL) to obtaining input from business/private sector partners; and

  • Leaders' satisfaction with TEL's on-going work to make the Asia Pacific Information Society (APIS) a reality, by strengthening and expanding the Asia-Pacific Information Infrastructure (APII) throughout the region.

Ministers shared the Leaders' strong confidence in the Asia-Pacific region and expressed the belief that the region's telecommunications and information sectors would continue to attract investment, grow and develop despite the recent financial crisis in the region.

Ministers reviewed actions taken by TEL since their previous meeting at the Gold Coast in 1996, and recognised the considerable progress made by TEL in meeting the Leaders' goals. They welcomed the report of TEL showing that the diverse elements of the work programme set at their last meeting at the Gold Coast had been completed or were well underway. Noting the wide range of activities TEL now has, Ministers welcomed the establishment of a set of criteria for approving projects as a means to encourage broad-ranging, yet focused activity at TEL.

Ministers welcomed progress in the development of the APII and saw firsthand its tangible benefits in the form of demonstrations of telemedicine, distance learning and electronic commerce applications held during their Meeting. Ministers reaffirmed their resolve to strengthen and expand their co-operation to support development of the APII in an effective and balanced manner.

Ministers recalled the diversity in the level of economic and infrastructure development among member economies and stressed the importance of a strong programme of economic and technical co-operation to ensure that the whole region could participate in the APIS.

Ministers recognised the efforts of and the leadership shown by the APEC community in contributing to the recent conclusion of the WTO Agreements on Basic Telecommunications and Information Technology. Ministers affirmed the need to continue to liberalise provision of telecommunications and information infrastructure and services, and for APEC economies to adjust to the realities of a liberalised and globalised telecommunications environment, taking into account the different levels of economic development and diverse circumstances of all APEC member economies.

Ministers noted the trend toward multimedia convergence and the rapid pace at which technology was developing. Agreeing that these developments posed new policy and regulatory challenges and opportunities for APEC economies, Ministers urged TEL to address these issues, and to consider in particular, the role it should play in information/content issues.

Business Facilitation

Ministers noted that later in the month, APEC Ministers responsible for Trade would meet to develop a comprehensive set of activities to enhance the development and use of electronic commerce in the APEC region. Ministers reaffirmed the importance of electronic commerce as a tool for businesses, governments and consumers and approved a joint action plan for TEL in electronic commerce, which would support the goals of Leaders. Ministers asked that this expanded list of activities be raised and co-ordinated with the work programme being prepared for the Ministers responsible for Trade.

Ministers recognised the need to ensure that the whole region shares in the benefits of electronic commerce, that the various infrastructure and service layers develop in a balanced and sustainable manner, and that the needs and interests of Asia-Pacific users are adequately considered.

In particular, Ministers stressed the need to ensure that on-line services support the flourishing of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), and to generate wider social, educational, health and community benefits for the APEC community. They welcomed TEL's contribution to this initiative, especially in documenting the issues arising for SMEs doing business over the Internet in the APEC region, and the Electronic Commerce Seminar recently organised in collaboration with PECC.

Ministers welcomed the successful completion of the Internet EDI pilot project, which was conducted by the private sector with support from the public sector, and which has resulted in a set of guidelines for implementing Internet-based EDI.

Ministers also welcomed the commencement of international interconnection between electronic commerce test beds, which would serve to facilitate the promotion of electronic commerce within the APEC region. Ministers also applauded the INGECEP/CyberNet project, conducted by the private sector with the support from the public sector.

Ministers noted the successful completion of the survey on X.400 interoperability and the interconnection of electronic commerce test beds, which would further facilitate the promotion of electronic commerce within the APEC region.

Development Co-operation

Ministers emphasised the importance of promoting the realisation and use of the APII, and applauded TEL's achievements in developing various application and services such as distance learning, telemedicine, telecommuting and electronic commerce.

Ministers recognised that the various test-bed projects were making a great contribution to the promotion of the APII by linking the networks of participating economies and running experiments and trials. They urged more economies to participate in these projects.

Ministers also noted that the Ecotech action programme for the IT industry proposed at a number of APEC fora, such as the APII symposium, would help narrow the gap in telecommunications and information infrastructures among member economies.

Ministers applauded the establishment of an APEC TEL Web Site by the APII Co-operation Centre in Korea based on the efforts by Singapore and the USA to develop TEL Website prototypes and reiterated that TEL should continue to be a model user of technology when member economies communicate and disseminate information and experience to one another, such as on interconnection policy, spectrum management and developmental resources.

Ministers welcomed the establishment of the APII Technology Centre in Japan and applauded the successful launch of a number of experiments under the APII Test-bed Project. Ministers encouraged more APEC member economies to participate in the project to advance the development of the APII.

Ministers noted the view of senior experts involved in the Interactive Medical Curriculum Pilot Project that rapid delivery of medical information is crucial for the efficient delivery of healthcare and education, especially in remote regions. They agreed that electronic resources are most likely to provide this cost effectively. Ministers welcomed the work done to date on this project and appreciated the co-operation and support of the APT.

Ministers recognised the synergy between liberalisation and development co-operation initiatives in the TEL, illustrated recently by TEL's work on advancing universal access to telecommunications services.

Human Resource Development

Ministers welcomed the progress of various Human Resource Development (HRD) initiatives, including:

  • Training initiatives to support TEL activities such as implementing the Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) on Conformity Assessment for Telecommunications Equipment, managing a liberalised telecommunications environment, developing fair interconnection and access arrangements, and accelerating the roll-out of on-line services; and

  • The development of telecommunications training courses using Web-based methods of instruction.

Ministers noted that the establishment of a HRD database for the telecommunications and information sector to share relevant information was conducive to the HRD projects within the region.

Ministers urged TEL to continue its efforts to enhance member economies' knowledge and experience through personnel exchanges, skills standards, practical training and distance learning to ensure the availability of an adequate corps of capable personnel to operate and use the information networks of the region.

Ministers supported the development by the International Telecommunication Union of a dedicated Centre of Excellence for human resource development in the Asia-Pacific region and instructed TEL to establish links, including virtual links, with the Asia-Pacific Centre of Excellence when it is set up, and with other training programmes and institutions so as to establish co-ordinated and sustained training programmes for the region.


Ministers applauded the timely work done by the Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) Task Force and endorsed an APEC MRA on Conformity Assessment for Telecommunications Equipment. Ministers saw the MRA as instrumental in TEL's efforts to lower technical barriers to trade and encouraged the Task Force to continue its work to encourage implementation of the MRA by member economies.

Ministers endorsed the establishment of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Implementation Task Group within TEL to assist member economies, where appropriate, to implement the pro-competitive principles laid out in the 1997 Agreement on Basic Telecommunications. Ministers reiterated their support for the prompt accession to the WTO of applicants in accordance with WTO protocol and based on effective market access commitments, with a view to achieving universality of WTO membership.

Ministers affirmed the importance of the study, "Effective Interconnection in the APEC Region", and encouraged further work by TEL to develop guidelines on interconnection policy and to assist member economies in developing and implementing pro-competitive interconnection principles.

Ministers welcomed the report on indicators to measure the benefits of liberalisation to users which would facilitate member economies to measure concrete outcomes of liberalisation in their telecommunications markets.

Ministers-Industry Leaders' Dialogue

Ministers also recognised the importance of continuing dialogue with the industry/private sector leaders, and appreciated the frank exchange of views during the Ministers-Industry Leaders' Dialogue Session, which was organised by the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC). Ministers agreed that such dialogue would enhance greater partnership between the public and private sectors.

At the Dialogue, which was moderated by PECC Chair, Mr Roberto Romulo, Ministers were encouraged by industry's commitment to the APEC process. Ministers and industry agreed that each had a role to play in facilitating the creation of the APIS. Ministers noted industry's call for greater acceleration of liberalisation efforts, greater transparency of regulation, facilitation of access and interconnection agreements, and addressing the privacy, security, authentication and bandwidth pricing issues impeding network utilisation.

Likewise, industry recognised its role in enhancing human resources development in the region and its leadership in developing the market for digital communications and commerce.

The Way Ahead

Ministers considered TEL's future work scope and agreed that the key challenge facing the APEC region is how to manage the transition to knowledge-based societies. Ministers believed that TEL could draw upon its key strengths; namely, its commitment to technological innovation, trade and investment liberalisation, its strong partnership with the business/private sector and its long-standing work in enhancing training and skills development in the Asia Pacific region. Ministers believed that TEL would have to forge strong partnerships with other relevant organisations, entities and APEC fora to fully exploit these strengths. Ministers also recognised the importance of a balanced work agenda for TEL which respects the diversity of the region.

Ministers reaffirmed that TEL should remain focused and streamline its activities. Ministers were of the view that TEL should not take on activities that were not within its objectives and goals and urged TEL to formulate priorities in the work programme it undertakes.

Noting that technology was a powerful enabler of development and economic growth, Ministers encouraged TEL to further its efforts to harness emerging technology in ways that were relevant and useful to member economies' needs.

Ministers recognised that MRA and WTO Implementation activities, such as interconnection arrangements in a pro-competitive environment, were concrete ways in which TEL could assist member economies to face the new global market. Ministers also recognised that flexibility should be shown and greater attention paid to the special needs of developing economies, especially during this period of economic difficulty.

Following from the Dialogue organised by PECC, Ministers believed that it would become increasingly important for TEL to engage the business/private sector in technical co-operation, human resource development and policy setting. Ministers welcomed industry's interest in working with the public sector in facilitating the emerging APIS by investing in member economies and providing human resource development training.

Ministers recognised that convergence has created tremendous challenges to existing human resource capabilities. Ministers reiterated their call for constant skills upgrading, particularly for developing economies, to assist their human resource development.

As a result of convergence, Ministers saw an increasing need for TEL to work more closely with other relevant entities when addressing new issues of the "cyber society". Consistent with the APEC vision, Ministers called for greater co-ordination and co-operation between TEL and other APEC fora as well as other international organisations to avoid duplication.

Ministers believed that individual economies' efforts to construct their own information infrastructures should include an important international dimension. They urged member economies to take proactive steps to facilitate the interconnectivity and interoperability of these infrastructures so as to fuel the larger APEC goal of the APIS.

With that, Ministers adopted the Singapore Declaration containing a Programme for Action to guide further APEC activities in the telecommunications and information sectors. The Singapore Declaration will provide sectoral input to the meeting of APEC Economic Leaders to be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 17-18 November 1998.

Ministers agreed to hold a fourth Ministerial Meeting on the Telecommunications and Information Industry to review progress in TEL's activities and to continue their valuable policy discussions in the year 2000. Ministers welcomed the offer by Mexico to host the Fourth APEC Ministerial Meeting on Telecommunications and Information Industry.