1987 is shaping up as a year of bitter trade disputes, and threatens to end in a retreat into protectionism by the US. The latest salvo has been fired by the US Federal Communications Commission, which wants to influence the outcome of the already tangled French negotiations over the future of state-owned CGCT. The FCC believes that the West German government used undue influence to persuade the French to favour Siemens over AT&T-Philips for the 20% of CGCT on offer to a foreign firm, and is threatening to seek a ban on US imports of telecommunications equipment from manufacturers based in countries that do not have an open telephone purchasing policy – in particular ones which discriminate against US suppliers. The Commission voted four to nil to institute an inquiry into how the FCC could put import restrictions into effect – although it is not clear that it has the power to act without the compliance of other US government agencies. The FCC is also demanding details from foreign-owned companies of their telecommunications equipment sales in the US, and wants US telephone companies to give details of their foreign purchases. The FCC also proposes to license foreign operators of value-added network services in the US.
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