Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to this year's Advanced Global Workshop on Government Procurement. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised difficult new challenges for our lives and work. This workshop is no exception: Travel restrictions make it unfeasible for us to have face-to-face discussions in Geneva. Unfortunately, therefore, we are compelled to shift to virtual format and adjust the programme to that format. We thank you all in advance for your understanding for the inevitable limitations that this imposes on the conduct of this activity.

We have been fortunate to be able to select you from a large pool of candidates. It is gratifying to have so many senior officials among our participants. Therefore, we are all the more grateful that you have expressed an interest in our activity. We are delighted that you have been able to set aside the time to join us online.

We here at the WTO who take an interest in government procurement are all very fond of this workshop. It is our annual “flagship” activity and a wonderful opportunity to disseminate information, deepen participants' knowledge, and foster dialogue on various aspects of trade and government procurement.

All of you are already quite aware of the importance of government procurement and its relationship with trade, good governance, economic growth and prosperity.  However, let me highlight a few key points:

  • First, government procurement is a key economic activity representing 15 to 20 percent of GDP in most economies. It can have significantly positive implications for economic growth.
  • Second, government procurement is vital for building infrastructure and delivering essential public services for the benefit of citizens, including health, education and national defence, therefore has a significant development dimension.
  • Third, effective rules and procedures for the conduct of government procurement are central to promoting good governance and preventing corruption.
  • And finally, international trade agreements covering government procurement can offer valuable opportunities to exporters for accessing foreign procurement markets. And such agreements can help countries to attract inbound foreign direct investment.

The WTO Agreement on Government Procurement — the “GPA” — is, of course, one of these international trade agreements covering procurement. What, then, is so special about it that we dedicate a workshop to it?

  • Well, to begin with, the GPA is the “gold standard” for these agreements. Indeed, the text of the GPA and the structure of its coverage schedules serve as the template for procurement chapters in free trade agreements around the world. The GPA thus provides a valuable point of reference and contributes to regulatory coherence;
  • The current GPA, was revised, modernized and improved not too long ago, in 2012. The text of the revised GPA now reflects recent international best practices in government procurement;
  • The revised GPA provides legally assured market access to covered foreign government procurement markets that have been valued at over 1.7 trillion US dollars annually. Future accessions, including those of China, Russia and Brazil, are expected greatly to expand this value;
  • From the perspective of good governance, the revised GPA also expressly recognizes the importance of “carrying out procurements in a transparent and impartial manner and of avoiding conflicts of interest and corrupt practices”. With its emphasis on good governance, and as an agreement reflecting international best practices, the revised GPA has become an essential policy benchmark for reform of national procurement systems, and a bulwark of the global struggle against corruption;
  • The revised GPA also reflects the growing international interest in and importance of sustainable development. In particular, the revised GPA explicitly recognizes that government procurement may be used as a tool to promote the conservation of natural resources and the protection of the environment. It also set up a dedicated work programme on sustainable government procurement. Six years later, the work programme is still being pursued by GPA Parties in small-group discussions, currently with a focus on socially sustainable procurement.

For all these reasons, more and more WTO Members have been seeking GPA membership or observership in recent years. Several have already succeeded in this regard. As a result, the membership and observership of the Agreement have become ever more geographically diverse.

Currently, the GPA comprises 20 parties covering 48 WTO Members. Since the entry into force of the revised GPA in 2014, five WTO Members have acceded to the Agreement, including Australia, the Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, New Zealand and Ukraine.

12 other WTO Members are seeking to participate in the Agreement as full Parties. And 36 Members have obtained observer status under the Agreement, which enables them to learn more about the Agreement and the Government Procurement Committee, and about current issues in government procurement policies and practices.

The recent developments around GPA member- and observership, and the increased diversity in this respect, underline the growing relevance of the revised GPA for today's global economy, economic development, sustainability, and good governance.

Dear participants, I have read the programme of this workshop and find it well designed and practically useful. It covers both legal and economic dimensions of the GPA, with a focus on issues related to accession to and the implementation of the Agreement. The speakers include not only WTO Secretariat staff, but also prestigious experts and academic scholars from around the world. Most importantly, you are all senior officials with considerable expertise and experience in the area of government procurement who can contribute to the success of the workshop by sharing your views and questions. I am confident that all these positive elements together will make this workshop a useful opportunity for exchanging views on this significant topic.

In concluding, let me wish you all an interesting and successful workshop. I hope that your respective governments can benefit from it, and that you can share some of the knowledge that you will acquire with your colleagues in your capitals.

Thank you for your attention, and I wish everyone good health and all the best for their professional endeavours.



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