The price of remote networking, online services and other corporate telecommunications could soon plummet following the signing of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement in Geneva last week.
Under the deal, the global market in telecommunications will be opened up to greater cross-border investment and free competition. The head of the WTO, Renato Ruggiero, claimed the increased competition could lead to global savings of as much as $1 trillion (#625 billion) over the next decade.
The agreement gives British telecoms companies the opportunity to compete freely in foreign markets, and further opens up the EU to investment from foreign telecoms companies.
"This is good news for BT customers," said a BT spokesman. "We have already brought prices down dramatically, and there are more price cuts to come."
He added that BT has "better reason than most" telecoms providers to welcome the news because the company operates in what is already one of the most highly competitive markets in the world. "We will happily compete with all comers in the UK, and are anxious to use our skills to develop services overseas," he concluded.
Technology minister Ian Taylor welcomed the deal. "This is great news for worldwide telecoms users and manufacturers, and particularly for the UK's industry and consumers," he said. "Countries which liberalise telecoms will attract more investment in all areas of the economy."
However, US politicians were quick to point out the same holds true in America. President Clinton spoke of "clear benefits to American workers, businesses and consumers alike", promising "new jobs, new markets and lower prices".
68 countries were signatories to the agreement, amounting to 90% of the global communications market, leaving China and Russia as the main countries missing. The countries have to ratify the agreement by 30 November 1997 and the deal will take effect on 1 January 1998. The deal also makes the BT MCI merger more likely.
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