GNSS System Mandates Would Violate International Trade Agreements

November 26, 2014  - By
Image: GPS World

A U.S. government representative stated at an international satnav forum that mandating use of specific GNSS services for applications such as air-traffic control, freight shipments, emergency calling, and road tolling could violate the terms of World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements that many nations, including all six GNSS providers, have signed. Regional mandates already exist for Glonass in Russia and Beidou in China, and have been suggested and extensively discussed in Europe, as a way of stimulating the market adoption of Galileo receiver chipsets, thus recouping some of the massive public investment in the satnav system.

The presentation occurred during the 9th Meeting of the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG), November 10–14 in Prague, the Czech Republic.

Jason Kim, a senior policy analyst at the U.S. Department of Commerce, stated that the United States and EU already enjoy a productive dialogue on GNSS trade issues under the 2004 U.S.-EU Agreement on GPS-Galileo Cooperation. In that agreement, both parties agreed to consult before establishing GNSS standards, certification requirements, regulations, mandates; affirmed their non-discriminatory approach with respect to GNSS trade; and established a working group to consider non-discrimination and other trade related issues. Finally, the United States and the European Union recognized and reiterated in 2004 their commitments to WTO rules including those governing technical barriers to trade (TBT), specifically, that there would be no goods discrimination based on non-tariff measures such as regulations, standards, testing, or certification.


Kim made the remarks in the course of his presentation titled “GNSS Market Access.” He told GPS World that his presentation was directed less at the European Union, which has been conscientious of its WTO commitments, and more towards the rest of the ICG members, including non-provider nations that may be asked by GNSS providers to mandate specific systems..

“To promote adoption of their systems,” Kim stated, “GNSS providers are considering/implementing equipage mandates for various applications: aviation, motor-carrier and HAZMAT vehicle tracking, car accident reporting (eCall/ERA-GLONASS), and emergency phone calls (E112).

“The United States recommends technology-neutral, performance-based standards,” Kim continued, giving as example the U.S. E911 rules that specify a required positioning accuracy and then allow wireless carriers to choose the best technical solutions according to their lights.

The U.S. government presentation at ICG revealed particular concern that regulations under consideration could adversely affect the sales of U.S. GPS-enabled hardware in many industry sectors. All members of the WTO, to include the six GNSS providers on the ICG, are bound to a range of trade agreements designed to promote open market access, all cited in the Prague ICG presentation: the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The United States, Europe, Japan, and 12 others are also parties to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA).

European Commission officials have publicly and recently stated that they are considering how to stimulate Galileo use, in particular through regulatory measures requiring that navigation equipment be installed on aircraft, automobiles, and other platforms.

“Requiring specific systems arbitrarily prevents or penalizes imports of goods having perfectly functional GNSS capability,” said Kim. “WTO members must comply with TBT obligations in setting technical regulations.”

He concluded his presentation by requesting that the ICG Providers’ Forum add GNSS market access to its future agenda for discussion, and consider developing a new principle on market access for future adoption.

The ICG, an organization established in 2005 under the umbrella of the United Nations to discuss GNSS to benefit people around the world, “promotes voluntary cooperation on matters of mutual interest related to civil satellite-based positioning, navigation, timing, and value-added services. The ICG contributes to the sustainable development of the world. Among the core missions of the ICG are to encourage coordination among providers of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), regional systems, and augmentations in order to ensure greater compatibility, interoperability, and transparency, and to promote the introduction and utilization of these services and their future enhancements, including in developing countries, through assistance, if necessary, with the integration into their infrastructures. The ICG also serves to assist GNSS users with their development plans and applications, by encouraging coordination and serving as a focal point for information exchange.”

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About the Author: Alan Cameron

Alan Cameron is the former editor-at-large of GPS World magazine.

2 Comments on "GNSS System Mandates Would Violate International Trade Agreements"

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  1. Scot Fahey says:

    European Commission officials need to quit acting as if they have a say in anything. The Ideal of the EU will end as the EU finds out, as Lady Thatcher once said the problem with socialism is in the end you run out of other people’s money, The world understands that President Obama has done every thing he and his minions could to damage the USA to the point where we are not funding the upgrades of GPS on schedule

  2. MANSOUR says:

    Very glad to hear that:”European Commission officials have publicly and recently stated that they are considering how to stimulate Galileo use, in particular through regulatory measures requiring that navigation equipment be installed on aircraft, automobiles, and other platforms.”

    In my opinion, we can undercut most human made errors of year 2014 by using M2M real-time simulations together with radio-communications as a remedy.
    In fact, we can assist a GNSS pseudo-terminal holder, a vehicle driver and in the same way, an airplane pilot by offering efficient and continuous synchronizations & coordinations, to plan and to readjust his/her mobility with 100% individual privacy, freedom rights protected and guaranteed.

    The weakness of unclear anticipation of what could be found in the next fraction of second ahead, is drastically reduced. At the end, it becomes obsolete the non M2M GNSS pseudo-terminals in the short term, the road traffic news in a flash in the long term and the voice instructions initiated by a RADAR operator who is , suffering and stressed behind his screen watching dots, directing a pilot at an instant when said pilot has to deal with a turbulence just appearing on his weather radar screen!