Australia will accede to the Agreement based on the terms set out in its final market access offer, which all GPA parties approved. This outlines to what extent Australia commits to opening its government procurement market to the current GPA parties. Preliminary calculations suggest that Australia's overall government procurement markets are worth AUD 110 billion (USD 78 billion), meaning that Australia's accession will add significantly to the current USD 1.7 trillion worth of government procurement covered by the Agreement.
Australia will submit its Instrument of Accession within a period of one year following the Committee's decision, after having ratified the decision domestically. Australia initiated negotiations to join the Agreement three years ago, in September 2015.
Echoing the GPA parties in congratulating Australia for “its patience and perseverance through this long road”, the Chairman of the GPA Committee, Carlos Vanderloo from Canada, said: “This is a major achievement for Australia, for the GPA Committee and for the WTO. It adds value to and strengthens the GPA, while also sending a strong signal to current accession candidates. We have shown that we can get the job done and that we are pragmatic and result-oriented.”
Australia's Ambassador Frances Lisson said: “This is a positive outcome for Australia, for the GPA parties and for the multilateral trading system. We thank all GPA parties for their active and constructive engagement and support. Our final market access offer is commercially meaningful and ambitious. It provides a comprehensive coverage of entities at the central and sub-central levels of government, including all major government agencies, and represents one of the best levels of services coverage among GPA parties.”
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo, commenting on the Committee's decision, said that it “very clearly demonstrates Australia's strong commitment to the multilateral system and to trade liberalization”. “The decision shows that the Committee is working hard to expand the benefits of the GPA, including enhanced transparency in government procurement, to broader membership. Australia's accession should be an inspiration for all other members who wish to join the GPA,” he added.
The GPA aims to open up, in a reciprocal manner 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 procurement covered by the Agreement. 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.
Progress on the United Kingdom's GPA accession
At the meeting, GPA parties reviewed the UK's revised market access offer as part of its bid to join the GPA in its own right after its departure from the European Union. All GPA parties that spoke expressed a clear desire that the UK continue to participate in the Agreement in a seamless manner post-Brexit, on terms that are mutually acceptable.
The UK made clear that it intends to update its proposed GPA schedules of commitments within three months of their coming into effect, using the procedures set out in the Agreement. Many parties said they can already approve, in principle, the UK's accession (in some cases subject to related conditions). Others called on the UK to provide further clarity on its eventual coverage and/or to address other concerns before the accession can be concluded. The UK's accession will be further considered at the Committee's end-of-year formal meeting, scheduled for 27 November.
Under negotiation is a government procurement market worth at least GBP 67 billion (USD 88 billion), the UK said at the Committee's meeting in June (based on 2013 figures).
The UK launched its GPA negotiations in June by submitting to parties an initial market access offer and replies to a checklist on its national government procurement legislation. As an EU member, the UK has been participating in the GPA for over 20 years.
Other accession bids
GPA parties reviewed the accession bids of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Russian Federation and Tajikistan.
China reported significant work underway at the national level, including on improving its latest market access offer in a comprehensive manner. Parties welcomed the continued engagement and urged Beijing to speed up efforts to submit a revised offer as soon as possible.
GPA accession application: December 2007
Latest revised market access offer: December 2014
The Kyrgyz Republic informed parties of ongoing internal reforms. The Chairman urged Bishkek to maintain discussions to resolve members’ remaining concerns.
GPA accession application: May 1999, reactivated in 2016
Latest market access offer: June 2018
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia expressed its commitment to advance negotiations following its initial market access offer submitted in February. Several members supported the first offer but some were concerned about certain aspects of the offer. The Chairman called for parties to engage with each other.
GPA accession application: March 2017
Initial market access offer: February 2018
Russia reported ongoing work on the sub-central entities to be covered by its upcoming revised offer and on the updating of its legislation related to government procurement. Parties highlighted Russia’s active engagement in submitting documents and in responding to comments and urged Moscow to significantly improve coverage of its proposed governmental entities in a revised offer to be circulated “as early as possible”.
GPA accession application: August 2016
Initial market access offer: June 2017
Tajikistan updated the Committee on ongoing legislative reforms and parties urged Dushanbe to submit a final revised market access offer addressing pending issues as soon as possible.
GPA accession application: February 2015
Latest market access offer: February 2017
Other countries with currently pending accession negotiations include Albania, Georgia, Jordan and Oman. In addition, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia and Seychelles have GPA-related commitments in their respective Protocols of accession to the WTO, which they negotiated with WTO members before their WTO entry.
The WTO Secretariat reported on various workshops it held across several continents on trade and government procurement, including for some WTO members having expressed potential interest in joining the GPA.
Implementation of the revised GPA
Parties welcomed an update by Switzerland, which stated that its Parliament is completing necessary internal steps prior to submission of its Instrument of Acceptance 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 Chair called on Switzerland to finalize the procedures “as soon as can be managed”.
The Chair reported “good progress” on the work carried out by members on various agreed work programmes:
- small and medium-sized enterprises: members continue to work on a possible draft list of best practices to be circulated within the Committee;
- collecting statistics: work is continuing on improving members' understanding of methodologies to collect data on procurement covered by the GPA;
- sustainability: members are reviewing a WTO Secretariat draft report based on an outline provided by the parties and summarizing past work of the GPA parties.
The final 2018 meeting of the GPA Committee is scheduled for 27 November 2018.