The European Commission, on the initiative of Mr. Martin Bangemann, Commissioner responsible for industry, has adopted a communication on the competitiveness of the European information and communication technology industries. The communication analyses the industry and the challenges it faces, and then proposes actions, to be taken by the industries themselves, Member States and the Community, to improve the competitiveness of the industries and their business environment. These actions are additional and complementary to a number of initiatives already underway, such as the telecommunications liberalization process, the Information Society Action Plan and recent initiatives on electronic commerce. Among the actions proposed in the communication are: - Improving global competition by completing the abolition of trade tariffs on all IT products and working to eliminate non-tariff barriers; - Improving the process of standards development, involving European producers as much as possible; - Exploiting the potential of EU enlargement by promoting cooperation and addressing the opportunities of the Central and Eastern European markets; - Accelerating take-up and promoting awareness of new technologies; - Facilitating the emergence of SMEs, particularly in the fields of software and multimedia content; - Focusing on skills upgrading to improve industrial performance and employment opportunities; - Encouraging benchmarking as a tool for identifying weaknesses and improving competitiveness. The communication aims to respond to the situation of Europe's ICT industries, which are growing more slowly than those of the USA and the Asian economies. Europe's share of the global IT market is declining, from 35% to 28% since 1990, and Europe's trade balance in the sector is also worsening. Following debate on the basis of this communication, the Commission intends to establish, in partnership with the Member States and industry, a series of specific actions and a programme for their implementation, as well as a mechanism for regular review of progress.