WTO: 2013 NEWS ITEMS

GOVERNMENT PROCUREMENT

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Government procurement represents a large proportion of economic activity, corresponding to some 15-20% of GDP in most economies.  Practices in this sector impact directly on the success of public infrastructure investment and on governments’ ability to meet citizens’ needs with respect to health, education, national defense and other priority areas.

The GPA provides legal guarantees of market access for the suppliers of Parties to the Agreement and, by encouraging the adoption of best practices in this sector, can help governments to obtain best value for money in their purchasing.  A modernized version of the Agreement, which was adopted by the Parties in 2012, incorporates expanded market access commitments, improved transitional measures for developing countries that join, and enhanced flexibilities for all Parties.

Six Asian WTO members (Armenia; Hong Kong, China; Japan; Korea; Singapore; and Chinese Taipei) are already parties to the GPA.  China is in the process of negotiating its accession to the Agreement.  In addition, Sri Lanka has been an observer to the Agreement since 2003; India became an observer in 2010; and Indonesia, Malaysia and Viet Nam were welcomed as observers in 2012.  Observership enables governments to learn about the agreement without assuming obligations or gaining market access rights.

WTO Secretariat representatives Rob Anderson and Anna Müller made presentations on various aspects of the Agreement including its market access and transparency obligations.  Guest resource person Professor Steven Schooner, a senior faculty member at the George Washington University Law School, contributed importantly to the discussions and observed that “the GPA merits consideration not only as a trade agreement but as a tool for guiding procurement reforms and drawing on international experience with respect to best practices in this area.”

Singapore regularly makes valuable contributions to the WTO’s efforts in enhancing trade capacity building in developing countries.  In 1996, the Government of Singapore and the WTO signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to provide trade-related technical assistance to Developing Countries in the Asia and Pacific region.  Since then, 32 regional workshops have been held under the MOU, covering a wide range of WTO topics and training over 600 government officials.  These workshops are normally held in Singapore, which provides both the logistical and financial support for participants, while the WTO provides its experts.  In 2013, in addition to this GPA workshop, two additional activities are planned, including a regional workshop on the TBT Agreement from 19 to 21 February and a Singapore Trade Dialogue for senior government officials in October.

 

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