WTO: 2016 NEWS ITEMS

GOVERNMENT PROCUREMENT


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“I offer my warmest congratulations to both Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova for the successful completion of their respective accession processes. We are very pleased to see you becoming full parties to the Agreement,” said the chair of the GPA Committee, Mr John Newham, of Ireland.

Ukraine informed the GPA Committee that it has already started work on implementing the procurement pact. “We view membership of the Agreement as a practical instrument to improve public procurement practice, simplify relevant procedures and give to Ukrainian operators a tool to tender all over the world,” said Mr Sergii Kriuchkov, Adviser to Ukraine's Minister of Economic Development and Trade. He also said that the Ministry has launched a voluntary “GPA implementation office” to help Ukrainian suppliers benefit from GPA membership and to assist foreign companies in accessing Ukraine's GPA market.

Ukraine applied for GPA accession in February 2011, less than three years after joining the WTO, and submitted its first offer for the coverage of its government procurement in March 2014. The WTO’s Committee on Government Procurement agreed on 11 November 2015 to invite Ukraine to join the GPA. Ukraine ratified the revised GPA on 18 April this year and officially became a party to the government procurement pact on 18 May.

The Republic of Moldova submitted its instrument of GPA accession on 14 June and will be in a position to benefit from new market access opportunities and other provisions under the pact starting next month. The representatives of the Republic of Moldova said that accession to the Agreement is important for providing security of market access to its suppliers and for promoting transparency and good governance. The GPA Committee approved the country's accession terms on 16 September 2015.

Arbitration procedures

The Committee adopted a decision (GPA/139) on procedures to resolve disagreements when a GPA party intends to modify the coverage of its government procurement offer. The decision lays out procedures and timelines to appoint arbitrators, organize substantive meetings, make determinations and implement decisions.

The procedures require that meetings of the arbitrators shall be open to the public, unless a party to the arbitration requests otherwise. Both Canada and Norway welcomed the adoption of the arbitration process, and praised the decision as "an important step for transparency".

Pending accessions

Australia informed the Committee it is not in a position to submit a revised offer due to its imminent elections. Australia launched its bid in June 2015 and circulated its initial offer in September 2015.

Following a period of inactivity, the Kyrgyz Republic resumed its GPA accession talks earlier this year when it circulated an updated market access offer as well as a draft domestic procurement law for review. The Kyrgyz Republic informed parties that it had productive bilateral meetings with delegations during the week of the Committee meeting. Parties took the floor to welcome the strong engagement of the Kyrgyz Republic in its GPA accession negotiation and noted that the process is moving in the right direction. Many expressed hope that work on its accession could wrap up by the end of the year.

Tajikistan circulated its second revised market access offer on 20 June, after submitting its first revised offer in February this year. Tajikistan's Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Mr Saidrahmon Nazrizoda, said the GPA has become an important element in promoting trade and good governance in the procurement sector, and that the country has a strong commitment to its accession process. A number of parties took the floor to welcome Tajikistan's continuing efforts; some also provided initial comments on the latest revised offer.

China reaffirmed its desire to join the GPA and outlined a series of steps it has taken to lay the groundwork for future progress. China also noted that it had held bilateral talks with several GPA parties earlier in the week and that it was ready to continue such exchanges. China submitted its fifth revised GPA accession offer in December 2014; subsequently, several parties have submitted requests calling for improvements in the offer. The European Union introduced its detailed request and expressed hopes for further bilateral exchanges. Several parties encouraged China to continue its active engagement and identify ways forward in order to submit a revised and improved coverage offer.

Work programmes

The GPA Committee carried forward its discussions in relation to work programmes focusing on four issues: participation by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in government procurement activities; the collection and reporting of statistical data; sustainability in international procurement; and exclusions and restrictions in parties’ market access schedules. Inputs are being received from parties in all four areas, and compilations reflecting submissions already circulated have been prepared with regard to some of the work programmes.

Background

Government procurement accounts for about 15 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in developed and developing countries. Only a part of this is currently covered by the Agreement on Government Procurement. The aim of the Agreement is to open up as much of government procurement as possible to international trade and competition, while ensuring appropriate transparency and a commitment to good governance. Recently, the GPA was revised to modernize certain aspects of its rules and to expand its scope. The revised version of the Agreement came into force in April 2014.

The GPA is a plurilateral agreement within the framework of the WTO, meaning that not all WTO members are parties to the Agreement. Currently, it covers 46 WTO members: Armenia; Canada; the European Union, with its 28 member states; Hong Kong, China; Iceland; Israel; Japan; Korea; Liechtenstein; Montenegro; the Kingdom of the Netherlands with respect to Aruba; New Zealand; Norway; Singapore; Switzerland; Chinese Taipei; Ukraine and the United States. Moldova's accession to the Agreement will become effective on 14 July 2016.

Other WTO members that have started the process of acceding to the GPA are Albania, Australia, China, Georgia, Jordan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Oman and Tajikistan. A further six members — Kazakhstan, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Mongolia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Seychelles — have provisions regarding accession to the Agreement in their respective protocols of accession to the WTO.

Further information on the WTO and government procurement is available here.

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