SPEECHES — DG ROBERTO AZEVÊDO

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Good morning everyone.

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the WTO for this year's Advanced Global Workshop on Government Procurement.

This is a "flagship" activity for us to disseminate information and foster dialogue on government procurement in all its dimensions. This includes market access and trade but also good governance, efficiency and the promotion of a just and inclusive society.

Government procurement is a vital sector of all our economies. It represents between 13 and 18% of GDP for the majority of WTO members. And it has major implications for growth, competitiveness, good governance and citizens' welfare.

Without transparent, effective and competitive procurement systems governments would struggle to deliver a high standard of public goods and services. This covers vital areas of infrastructure, health care, education, defense and policing. And it connects to a wide range of policy areas – including the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

So I'm pleased that all of these issues are on your agenda this week.

And of course the WTO Government Procurement Agreement will be an overarching theme.

The revised GPA came into force in 2014. With this revision, the parties to the Agreement put in place a modern, flexible tool to enhance transparency and market access in the government procurement sector.

The revised Agreement embodies new transitional measures for developing countries that join. It encourages the use of modern e-procurement tools. And it ensures enhanced flexibility for all participating members.

It also gives increased emphasis to the conservation of natural resources and the protection of the environment.

Since 2014, four additional WTO members have acceded to the Agreement: the Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, New Zealand and Ukraine.

A total of ten other WTO members are seeking to participate in the Agreement as full parties. And 32 members, including, recently, Afghanistan and Brazil, have obtained observer status under the Agreement, in order to learn more about it.

This sends a clear message about the growing relevance of the GPA in today's global economy.

Another very significant development is that countries are increasingly joining the Agreement for a more diverse set of reasons than was the case previously.

While market access objectives remain central to the discussion, a growing number of transition economies are joining the Agreement for additional reasons – such as the promotion of good governance, and economic and social reform.

In fact, I think that the WTO GPA can provide an important tool for building linkages between major emerging economies and the developed world. It is notable that both China and the Russian Federation are among those seeking to join the Agreement.

And of course, accession involves detailed negotiations and a significant process of institution and capacity building.

A further important dimension that I would like to highlight concerns the potential contributions of new and emerging digital technologies. They may help with more efficient procurement, transparency and effective governance in this area.

Other important and pressing issues include:

  • the legal and institutional foundations of government procurement in the international trading system;
  • the effective control of corruption and collusion in procurement markets; and
  • emerging topics such as the implications of procurement policies for inclusiveness and women's empowerment.

This workshop provides time for a full and thoughtful exploration of these questions. It brings together participants from a diverse range of regions and economies, with the input of prominent outside experts.

So I look forward to seeing the reports of your discussions.

Before closing, I would like to mention another reason why the discussion at this workshop is particularly timely.

There are many misconceptions about the nature and objectives of the international trading system today.

There are some who feel that it exists only to support trade and that this is indifferent to other public interests. 

But this has never been the case – in theory or in practice.

If you look at the Preamble to the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization this is very clear. It refers to "the optimal use of the world's resources in accordance with the objective of sustainable development" as an over-arching goal of the system.

This goal is central to our work in the area of government procurement, and in all other areas as well.

Trade is not an end in itself. It matters because it improves people's lives, creates better jobs and facilitates growth and development. And it does all of this because of the network of rules, practices and disciplines that we have established here. 

The GPA is part of this. And therefore your discussions here to further international dialogue on this topic could not be more important.

So thank you for being here, and for your commitment to these issues. I wish you a very positive and productive week.

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