China told its six telecoms to merge their assets, allowing fixed-line carriers to expand into wireless services and creating three operators...

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China told its six telecoms to merge their assets, allowing fixed-line carriers to expand into wireless services and creating three operators that will offer phone and Internet connections to 1.3 billion people.

Under the plan, the parent of China Telecom will buy a mobile-phone network from China Unicom’s parent, which in turn will merge with the company that controls China Netcom Group.

China will issue three third-generation wireless licenses after the overhaul is completed, it said.

The revamp will help China Telecom and Netcom expand their operations to compete against China Mobile in the world’s biggest wireless and Internet market by users.

Chinese regulators aim to boost competitiveness at fixed- line operators before the nation rolls out 3G high-speed wireless services, which will require billions of dollars for network equipment.

The government has said it plans to offer 3G during the Olympic Games in August.

Trade

Mexico ends taxes on grain imports

President Felipe Calderón said Sunday that Mexico is eliminating tariffs on wheat, corn and rice as part of a plan to counter rising food prices that have provoked street protests.

Calderón blamed high food costs on global factors, including rising energy prices, soaring food demand in China and India and the use of corn for ethanol production.

But some Mexicans point to the elimination of import protections under the North American Free Trade Agreement, and several agricultural leaders said Calderón’s initiative would only hurt national producers.

Labor

U.K. union merges with Steelworkers

Britain’s largest union is merging with the United Steelworkers, creating the first trans-Atlantic labor organization, the two groups said Sunday.

Unite, which represents more than 2 million workers in Britain’s transportation, energy and public sectors, among others, will join United Steelworkers, which has 850,000 members in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

The unions have joined forces because both have been left behind by globalization, Unite spokesman Andrew Murray said.

Napster

MP3s to go on sale beginning Tuesday

Napster begins selling MP3s Tuesday, a move the online music service hopes will lure iPod users and turn around Napster’s sliding fortunes.

The company is the latest to make the switch to the unrestricted file format, which makes music tracks compatible with virtually any music player or other device.

Tracks downloaded as part of Napster’s subscription service will continue to have copyright restrictions.

Napster MP3s will be priced at 99 cents each, while full-album downloads will start at $9.95, the company said.

Compiled from Bloomberg News and The Associated Press