Responses to the Industry presentation on
"Facilitating the movement of goods and services
while building a manufacturing base: The case for the MRA"
3rd APEC Ministerial Meeting on the
Telecommunications and Information Industry
Speech by Mr KWONG Ki-chi
Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting
3 June 1998
Ministers, Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen,
Mr Tachikawa has given us an excellent presentation on the industry view regarding the need for a Mutual Recognition Arrangement. Ministers, I hope will be willing to endorse this before the end of this meeting. It is my pleasure to have this opportunity to share with you my Government's view on the MRA for telecommunications equipment.
Over the past year, much effort has been spent on developing the MRA which has finally borne fruit today. Certainly, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China is very supportive of the MRA which will help to achieve the goal declared in the Osaka Action Agenda in 1995 in respect of conformity assessment of telecommunications equipment.
Conformity assessment forms a major link in the chain for development of telecommunication products. Product standards are often criticised as presenting serious barriers to trade in goods. However, the real barrier usually lies in the government regulations on how a product should meet those standards such as complex and difficult conformity assessment procedures in product testing and certification. It is no surprise, therefore, that the conformity assessment procedures have moved to the forefront of international trade policy debates.
The unimpeded movement of telecommunications equipment is becoming critical at this time for a number of reasons:-
- markets are becoming increasingly global and telecommunication provides the essential platform on which the global economy thrives;
- telecommunication technology is evolving at ever faster pace and timely availability of equipment at a reasonable cost is essential to the establishment of an efficient telecommunications infrastructure;
- the co-advancement of telecommunication and IT technology creates new opportunities and challenges for domestic and international trade; and
- easier access to telecommunication equipment gives business the competitive edge in exploiting the opportunities and meeting the challenges.
I am aware that manufacturers of telecommunications equipment are now demanding shorter lead times for conformity assessment and lower testing and certification costs. They have already emphasised the global nature of their business, the importance of free movement of their goods, and the need for relatively open access to markets. Their ultimate desire is to have an international arrangement which would allow their products to be "tested once and accepted anywhere".
One essential precondition for that desire to be fulfilled is the confidence in the competence of conformity assessment bodies in a foreign territory. The MRA is a means to build up that confidence. The success of MRA on telecommunications equipment will:-
- enable acceptance of conformity assessment or certification from multiple sources;
- facilitate the sharing of investment in conformity assessment;
- provide for streamlining of conformity assessment procedures so as to reduce the time and cost of certification;
- provide means of speedy introduction of new technologies on a global basis ; and
- reduce administrative costs for regulators.
In Hong Kong, we have a goal of eliminating duplicative and unnecessary testing and certification regulations. We have already implemented a regulatory framework which allows flexibility in accepting test reports or certifications of telecommunications equipment produced by conformity assessment bodies of other administrations. We are now ready for participation in the APEC MRA Phase I procedure for mutual acceptance of test reports of all telecommunications equipment. It is already a practice in Hong Kong that we accept certifications of some products against international standards as well as commonly accepted industry standards. GSM, PCS and CDMA mobile radiotelephones, PHS and DECT equipment and ATM equipment are some examples. We will continue to shape our regulatory framework to accept certification of a wider range of equipment. Let me assure you that Hong Kong will be ready to be one of the first participants in the APEC MRA Phase II procedure for mutual acceptance of equipment certification when it comes into effect on 1 July 1999.
The APEC MRA could provide momentum to global trade efforts. However, not all APEC member economies have the technical capacity or skilled personnel to immediately enter into MRAs. The road ahead will be challenging, since it requires economies at different level of readiness to participate in the MRA. Implementation will require considerable patience, resource, flexibility and the co-operation for which APEC is famous.
Technological innovation, global marketing and shortened production cycles breed the need for MRA. I am confident that with our continued efforts and co-operation between Governments and industry, the goal of "tested once, accepted everywhere in APEC" can be realised in the near future.