DFAT eyes regional IT pricing discussion

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DFAT eyes regional IT pricing discussion

Government inquiry could cross borders.

The Australian Government may pull Pacific trade allies into its local IT pricing inquiry, with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade flagging its intention to have formal cross-border discussions on the matter.

DFAT representative Hamish McCormick told a Standing Committee of Infrastructure and Communications hearing late yesterday that the agency had highlighted the issue in Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

“We said we’ve been monitoring interest here, and it is an issue of some interest in Australia, and we want better discussion about this because we are trying to get across-the-board benefits for businesses and consumers,” he said.

McCormick said the issue had not been raised in any formal capacity. Rather, DFAT had flagged to the Electronic Commerce Working Group within the TPP that it wanted to have the discussion.

He said the reaction so far had been positive.

"They are prepared to have the discussion but we haven’t gotten beyond that. It’s a recent development, but I think people are willing to have that discussion.”

The Committee questioned McCormick on specific measures that could be put into place to stop anti-competitive differential pricing, in terms of specific trade agreements and technical roadblocks, but he would not be drawn into a conclusive response.

“These are quite complicated legal questions that copyrights experts in the Attorney-General’s department would be better placed to give you views on," he said.

The parliamentary IT pricing inquiry was formed in May and has since received 96 submissions and six supplementary submissions from consumers and vendors alike.

It has held five hearings featuring the likes of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Information Industry Association, a body representing several technology vendors at the centre of the inquiry.

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