According to the World Trade Organization, global trade in telecommunications services accounts for $1.5 trillion in revenues. Trade in telecommunications services includes entrance of new telecommunications companies, foreign direct investment, and the cross-border transmission of telecommunications services. Donald Trump would like to build a wall around some of that trade, specifically the trade between Mexico and the United States promoted in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA or Agreement). I don’t think that is a good idea simply because it reduces the availability of additional choice of telecommunications providers and restricts the flow via foreign direct investment of additional capital that a fledgling telecom may need. Calling for a tearing up of NAFTA also shows Mr. Trump’s ignorance when it comes to global capital markets.
Take for example the Mexico-based telecom America Movil SAB de CV. America Movil is a beast, controlling 70% of Mexico’s wireless and internet access market, according to Morningstar strategist Michael Hodel. This market dominance is a red flag to Mexican regulators who have promulgated rules designed to reign in America Movil. Rules changes have provided United States-based AT&T an opening to enter the Mexican market, but it is expected that AT&T will have a tough go at profitability as it seeks to navigate the Mexican market.
NAFTA provides AT&T some help. Chapter 13 of NAFTA addresses access to public telecommunications transport networks by persons, broadcast station operators, cable system operators, or operators of private networks. Under Article 1302, AT&T is able to purchase, lease, and attach equipment to Mexico’s public telecommunications transport networks. AT&T can also interconnect its private networks to Mexico’s public telecommunications transport networks either from in the United States or from within Mexico. NAFTA, combined with changes in Mexican law, can be good for American telecommunications firms.
While NAFTA does not speak directly to listing of shares of corresponding stock exchanges, America Movil lists its American Depository Receipts on the New York Stock Exchange. ADRs are negotiable certificates issued by a U.S. bank representing a specified number of shares in a foreign stock traded on a U.S. exchange. If access to Mexican markets by American firms were curtailed as a result of tearing up NAFTA, the only beneficiaries north of the Rio Grande would be holders of ADRs or other securities issued by Mexican-based firms because their revenues would be left unchallenged.
If Mr. Trump is concerned about increases on return to American capital or increases in American jobs as he claims, tearing up NAFTA would be the wrong approach.