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WTO NEWS: 1996 PRESS RELEASES

PRESS/61
5 December 1996

WTO Government Procurement Committee Approves Membership of Hong Kong

The WTO Committee on Government Procurement, today (5 December), approved the accession of Hong Kong to the Agreement on Government Procurement (1994) on the terms negotiated. The Agreement will enter into force for Hong Kong 30 days after the date it deposits its instrument of accession with the WTO Director-General.

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Twenty-three WTO members are parties to the Agreement on Government Procurement _ Canada, the European Communities and 15 member states, Israel, Japan, Rep of Korea, Aruba (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands), Norway, Switzerland and the United States. In addition to Hong Kong, accession negotiations with Liechtenstein and Singapore have been completed.

The decision on the accession of Hong Kong demonstrates increasing interest in the Agreement among WTO members in East Asia where Japan and Rep of Korea are already parties, and Hong Kong and Singapore have now completed accession negotiations, and Chinese Taipei is in the process of negotiating its accession.

The Committee Chairman, Mr Harald Ernst (Switzerland), welcomed the decision on Hong Kong's accession to the plurilateral agreement. He said it would send a positive signal to the Singapore Ministerial Conference of the importance of the further opening of government procurement markets to the multilateral trading system. It also demonstrated the importance that the Agreement's members attach to expanding membership, he said.

Background

The Agreement on Government Procurement is one of the four WTO plurilateral agreements (i.e. not signed by the WTO's entire membership). It aims to open up government purchases, estimated at several hundreds of billions of dollars annually, to international competition. The Agreement entered into force on 1 January 1996.

The Agreement requires non-discriminatory practices and open procedures in government procurement amongst member states, not only in respect of central government procurement of goods (as under the earlier, Tokyo Round Agreement on Government Procurement), but also in respect of procurement of services, including public works, and procurement at the sub-central levels of government (such as states in a federal system) and by public utilities. The exact coverage is determined by national schedules of commitments of purchasing entities and of services attached to the Agreement. Compared to the earlier Tokyo Round Agreement, coverage has been increased by about ten-fold.

The committee has agreed to undertake an early review of the Agreement, starting in 1997. One of the objectives of the review will be to seek the expansion of membership by making the Agreement more accessible to countries that have not signed.