U.S. trade officials slam European calls for domestic communications network.

The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman has branded calls for a domestic European communications network "draconian", and said the proposal could breach global trade agreements and laws.

In the annual review by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative of telecoms trade barriers faced by U.S. companies, Froman said calls by European companies for a home-grown communications network that would prevent data being routed through U.S. servers is "protectionist", and could effectively exclude foreign telecoms equipment and service providers from the European market.

"Barriers to trade in telecommunications-related goods and services disproportionately affect U.S. suppliers, given our strong competitive position in these sectors," Froman said in the report, which is called the 1377 Review.

The USTR states in the report that calls for a European communications network "appears to be a means of providing protectionist advantage to EU-based ICT suppliers." The report also criticises Deutsche Telekom's support for the home-grown network, noting the company and other backers are effectively calling for the end of an existing agreement "which has provided a practical mechanism for both U.S. companies and their business partners in Europe to export data to the United States, while adhering to EU privacy requirements."

Further, "a requirement to route all traffic involving EU consumers within Europe, would decrease efficiency and stifle innovation," the report added.

German chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly discussed building a European communications network with the French President Francois Hollande in February, after allegations of widespread spying by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and its UK counterpart, GCHQ, by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Merkel's own mobile phone was allegedly hacked as part of the spying campaign. German newspaper Der Spiegel reported late March that GCHQ also spied on the employees of numerous German companies.

Froman said the European network plan is one of several "new barriers [to] data flows and other localization requirements," identified in the 2014 report that could prevent U.S. companies operating on a level playing field internationally.

The USTR also pledged to closely monitor Turkey, where it is concerned about the effect of state-imposed sanctions on communications.

Restrictions on web access and cross-border data transfer could breach Turkey's international access agreements arranged through the World Trade Organisation, the USTR states. "These restrictive laws may affect services covered by Turkey's trade commitments, including commitments to ensure reasonable access by such suppliers to telecommunications networks."

The USTR report follows accusations that the NSA built back-door access to Huawei servers that enabled it to monitor the communications of Huawei executives, and gain access to data.

Huawei chief executive, Eric Xu, appeared to rubbish the claims in late March, when he told reporters the company would have known about any attempts to breach its systems.

Speaking after the company revealed its 2013 results, Xu also said it would take a long time for Huawei to gain the trust of U.S. authorities, which accuse the firm of spying for the Chinese government, Reuters reported.

For more:
- see the USTR announcement
- see the full USTR report [PDF]
- see this Der Spiegel article
- see Reuters' report on Huawei

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