Agreement on Government Procurement
To ensure open, fair and transparent conditions of competition in the government procurement markets, a number of WTO members have negotiated the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA).
What is the GPA?
The GPA is a plurilateral agreement within the framework of the WTO, meaning that not all WTO members are parties to the Agreement. At present, the Agreement has 21 parties comprising 48 WTO members. Thirty-five WTO members/observers participate in the Committee on Government Procurement as observers. Out of these, 11 members are in the process of acceding to the Agreement.
The fundamental aim of the GPA is to mutually open government procurement markets among its parties. As a result of several rounds of negotiations, the GPA parties have opened procurement activities estimated to be worth more than US$ 1.7 trillion annually to international competition (i.e. to suppliers fromthe GPA parties offering goods, services or construction services).
The GPA is composed mainly of two parts: the text of the Agreement and parties' market access schedules of commitments.
The text of the Agreement establishes rules requiring that open, fair and transparent conditions of competition be ensured in government procurement. However, these rules do not automatically apply to all procurement activities of each party. Rather, the coverage schedules play a critical role in determining whether a procurement activity is covered by the Agreement or not. Only those procurement activities that are carried out by covered entities purchasing listed goods, services or construction services of a value exceeding specified threshold values are covered by the Agreement. These schedules are publicly available here.
As a binding international treaty, the GPA is administered by the Committee on Government Procurement which is composed of representatives of all its parties. The enforcement of the Agreement is realized through two mechanisms: the domestic review mechanism at the national level and the WTO dispute settlement mechanism at the international level.
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Evolution of the GPA
Government procurement is excluded from the WTO's multilateral trade agreements. Early efforts to bring government procurement under internationally agreed trade rules were undertaken in the OECD framework. The matter was then brought into the Tokyo Round of Trade Negotiations within GATT in 1976.
As a result, the first agreement on government procurement (sometimes referred to as the “Tokyo Round Code on Government Procurement”) was signed in 1979 and entered into force in 1981. It was amended in 1986 and the amendment entered into force in 1988. Parties to the agreement then held negotiations to extend the scope and coverage of the agreement in parallel with the Uruguay Round. As a result of the negotiations, the GPA 1994 was signed in Marrakesh on 15 April 1994 — at the same time as the Agreement Establishing the WTO — and entered into force on 1 January 1996.
Not long after the implementation of the GPA 1994, the GPA parties initiated the renegotiation of the Agreement according to Article XXIV:9 of the 1994 Agreement. The negotiation was concluded in December 2011 and the outcome of the negotiations was formally adopted in March 2012. On 6 April 2014, the GPA 2012 came into force for all those parties to the GPA 1994 that had ratified the GPA 2012, while allowing other parties to the GPA 1994 to continue completing their domestic ratification procedures. The last of those other parties, Switzerland, deposited its instrument of acceptance of the GPA 2012 on 2 December 2020. The GPA 2012 entered into force for Switzerland on 1 January 2021. On the same date, the GPA 2012 replaced the GPA 1994.
Parties will continue improving the GPA. The GPA 2012 sets out that the parties shall undertake further negotiations to progressively reduce and eliminate discriminatory measures and to achieve the greatest possible extension of the coverage. In this spirit, the GPA parties have also agreed to undertake a number of work programmes which will influence the future evolution of the Agreement.
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