WTO NEWS: SPEECHES — DG PASCAL LAMY

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The WTO Regime on Government Procurement: Challenge and Reform
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Pascal Lamy’s speeches

  

Good evening, and welcome to all of you.  There are a number of reasons why I am pleased that this exciting new WTO-Cambridge volume, edited by Professor Sue Arrowsmith of the University of Nottingham School of Law and Rob Anderson of the WTO  Secretariat, has been published at this time.

First, in the aftermath of the world economic crisis, and in view of the rapid and impressive growth of the emerging economies in recent times, there is, I believe, much greater public awareness of the importance of government procurement. Particularly, government procurement of public infrastructure investment, as a determinant of economic activity, growth, and the welfare of citizens.  The new volume edited by Professor Arrowsmith and Rob takes explicit account of this context.

Second, there is, today, in my judgement, enhanced awareness of the importance of good governance as an underpinning of economic and social development, and an essential ingredient in ensuring that globalization works to the benefit of the world's citizens.  While good governance has many dimensions, and requires support from diverse sources including civil society, governments, business and the media, the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement, in my view, can make a very significant contribution in this area. Let me mention in particular,

  • the general transparency provisions of the Agreement,
  •  the requirement in the Agreement that each participating Party must put in place independent domestic review or “remedy” procedures,
  •  the explicit new requirement, in the revised text of the Agreement, to avoid conflicts of interest and prevent corrupt practices.

All of these represent important practical tools to ensure integrity in public contracting.  The present volume devotes much attention to these matters and, for example, the experience with implementation of the GPA's review mechanisms in Asian developing economies.

Third, and as the relevant chapters of the book rightly emphasize, the membership of the GPA appears to be on the cusp of a significant expansion.  Apart from the very significant increase in membership that has occurred as a result of the expansion of the European Union over the past decade, the accession of Chinese Taipei took effect in July 2009.  This, in itself, brought under the disciplines of the Agreement procurements that have been valued at $20 billion annually.  Substantive negotiations on the accession of Armenia were concluded last autumn, and its accession is expected to be formally concluded in the coming weeks.  Work on the GPA accession of Jordan is also well advanced, and will hopefully be concluded this year.  Most significantly, work on the GPA accession of China is proceeding with engagement by both China and the existing Parties.  A revised and improved coverage offer by China, incorporating coverage of sub-central government entities, has been promised by China for the autumn of this year.

In addition, and partly in light of the factors I have mentioned, a number of other developing and emerging WTO members, in diverse parts of the world, have embarked on a process of informing themselves of the content of the Agreement and the potential benefits and costs for them, of accession.  Consequently, the volume we have before us rightly devotes much attention to the issues associated with GPA accession, particularly on the part of developing and emerging economies.  I expect it will become the leading scholarly reference on this topic.

Fourth, and as is well known to the representatives of the GPA Parties who are present, the renegotiation of the text and coverage of the existing Agreement is now well advanced and may be a deliverable for this year.  In fact, work on the renegotiation of the text of the Agreement is essentially completed; it is the parallel negotiations on the coverage of the revised Agreement that remain to be wrapped up.  Conclusion of the negotiations will, I believe, yield major benefits for all GPA Parties, including market access gains and facilitation of future accessions to the Agreement.  In these circumstances, I cannot but agree with Professor Arrowsmith who, in her chapter on the revised GPA text, states as follows:  “It is … to be hoped that the Parties will now move swiftly to adopt the revised text, both so that it may be used by the current Parties and so that it can form the basis of any new accessions”.

Well said, Sue!  It is now for the Committee on Government Procurement, under the leadership of its very able Chairman, our friend Nicholas Niggli, and with the support of the Secretariat, to conclude the negotiations and bring the revised text into force.  Nicholas, I count on you and the Committee to complete the mission during the present year.

Lastly, I am happy that this significant new volume in the WTO-Cambridge Series has been co-edited by the leading academic in the world, in this field, and by a member of the Secretariat, Rob Anderson, working together in a close and effective partnership.  This illustrates, I believe, both the capacity of the Secretariat to contribute to the intellectual debate at a high level and the major benefits and synergies that flow from such collaborations.

This type of  co-operation between the WTO Secretariat and recognized academics is precisely what I had in mind in launching the programme of WTO chairs in developing countries, or the reason why we have opened the preparation of the World Trade  Report, which is our flagship scientific annual publication, to web contributions. More to come in this area in the future as the WTO Secretariat will improve its capacity to add value to the wealth of information and experience it has in stock. This implies, of course, serious revamping and streamlining of our information systems, data bases, and searching capacities. It does take a bit of time because of severe budget constraints, but we will get there. A potential huge reward for our members, for academics and for WTO staff whose reputation of professionalism and expertise deserve it. At the end of the day, better knowledge of trade issue leads to better decisions on trade policies and,  hopefully, although  not that clear today if you look at the Doha Round, to better trade politics!

Sue and Rob, congratulations on getting out this impressive and pathbreaking book in such a timely fashion! An example I wish others to emulate.

 

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