Afghanistan said government procurement is an important contributor to its economy as it represents 15% of the country’s gross domestic product and accounts for approximately 50% of the national budget. Joining the GPA will help it attain the goal of achieving a strong and reliable procurement system, Afghanistan said.
Brazil said its decision to request observer status, meanwhile, reflects a broader desire and goal of Brazilian society to modernize its economy and improve the management of resources. Brazil noted that numerous regional trade agreements include chapters on government procurement that are based largely on the GPA. Being a GPA observer will help the country gain a better understanding on the matter, Brazil said.
Committee members, in response, expressed their warm welcome to Afghanistan and Brazil. Members lauded Afghanistan’s statement of commitment to eventually join the GPA as a full party to the Agreement. Members also expressed their hope that Brazil might, in the future, consider becoming a full party to the Agreement.
“We regard these additions to our committee as important,” Committee Chair John Newham (Ireland) said, addressing Afghanistan and Brazil. “They’re important to your own countries but also important to the attention given to your regions. We look forward to your further participation,” he said.
“I encourage the two delegations to make full use of possibilities for obtaining technical assistance from Parties and/or the Secretariat, the chair added.
The GPA aims to open up, based on principles of reciprocity and to the extent agreed between WTO members, government procurement markets to foreign competition, and make government procurement more transparent. It provides legal guarantees of non-discrimination for the products, services or suppliers of GPA parties in covered procurements. The GPA is a plurilateral agreement — potentially open to all WTO members and binding only the parties to the agreement. Currently, 47 WTO members (including the EU and its 28 member states) are bound by the agreement.
‘Buy American’ measures in the United States
A number of members raised the matter of developments related to a US Presidential Executive Order on “Buy American, Hire American”, issued on 18 April 2017.
The European Union, which asked for the discussion, said that more stringent Buy American policies could lead to increased costs and additional delays with no net benefit in terms of jobs created. The EU called on the US and other GPA parties to abide by international rules and measures. A number of other members mentioned similar concerns, with some indicating that they were monitoring developments.
The United States responded by providing detailed information concerning the Executive Order and related developments. It highlighted that the Order states that nothing in its text shall be construed to impair existing rights or obligations under international agreements. The US said that after the public consultation process opened on 21 August, the Secretary of Commerce will submit by 24 November a report to the President. The US thanked members for the inputs they had provided to the public inquiry process being carried out pursuant to the Order.
Progress on GPA accessions
A number of other WTO Members that are not currently Parties to the Agreement are in the process of joining, subject to ongoing negotiations.
Australia said that it intends to submit a final market access offer concerning its accession to the Agreement to the GPA parties in the coming months . Parties expressed their support for a speedy conclusion of Australia’s accession, reiterating the hope that previously submitted comments and requests would be reflected in the final offer as far as possible.
The Russian Federation
The Russian Federation said it expects to submit its responses to a “Checklist of Issues” concerning accession to the Agreement before the end of the year.
China said it is making progress on preparation of a revised GPA market access offer and mentioned relevant meetings being held including the 19th National Congress. Parties stressed the importance of renewed talks and the submission of China’s revised offer to move the process forward.
The Kyrgyz Republic said work is ongoing to prepare a final offer and responses to outstanding questions and comments. It remains committed to its GPA accession process.
Tajikistan said it expects to circulate soon its revised offer, which it hopes to be the final one, along with responses to outstanding questions and comments from Parties.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the latest WTO member to have applied for GPA accession, said it was preparing its initial offer, which it plans to submit ahead of the Committee’s next substantive meeting in March.
Implementation of the revised GPA
Switzerland is the last party yet to implement the revised GPA, which was adopted in 2012 and entered into force in April 2014. The delegation confirmed that its internal processes for ratification of the revised GPA and adoption of related legislation by the federal and cantonal authorities are proceeding as foreseen. Switzerland said that while it is difficult to foresee the date for the completion of the procedures, it is striving to ratify the revised GPA as early as possible in 2018.
Moldova, the most recent member to accede to the GPA, provided an update of its implementation of the Agreement.
Important work is under way in the Committee on how to implement sustainability in international procurement, enhance the collection of statistics, and promote the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises in government procurements.
Separately, several delegations noted the potential of new technology to facilitate effective implementation of the Agreement and to strengthen governance generally. The Chair invited members to consider holding a symposium on the matter and to submit related suggestions for discussion.
Technical assistance activities
The Secretariat briefed the Committee on its recent technical assistance activities relevant to GPA accessions. These include a national seminar requested by Sri Lanka and a major regional workshop for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, co-organized by the Secretariat with the EBRD and the Georgian procurement authority, in Tbilisi. It said that interest in the GPA is growing, and that the use of electronic tools is central to the discussion.
The next formal Committee meeting is scheduled for 16 November 2017, at which the Committee will adopt its annual report to the WTO General Council and complete related housekeeping functions. The next substantive meetings will take place in mid-March 2018.