Agreement on Government Procurement
To ensure open, fair and transparent conditions of competition in the government procurement markets, a number of WTO members have negotiated the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA).
What is the GPA?
The GPA is a plurilateral agreement within the framework of the WTO, meaning that not all WTO members are parties to the Agreement. At present, the Agreement has 20 parties comprising 48 WTO members. Another 32 WTO members/observers participate in the GPA Committee as observers. Out of these, 9 members are in the process of acceding to the Agreement.
The fundamental aim of the GPA is to mutually open government procurement markets among its parties. As a result of several rounds of negotiations, the GPA parties have opened procurement activities worth an estimated US$ 1.7 trillion annually to international competition (i.e. to suppliers from GPA parties offering goods, services or construction services).
The GPA is composed mainly of two parts: the text of the Agreement and parties' market access schedules of commitments.
The text of the Agreement establishes rules requiring that open, fair and transparent conditions of competition be ensured in government procurement. However, these rules do not automatically apply to all procurement activities of each party. Rather, the coverage schedules play a critical role in determining whether a procurement activity is covered by the Agreement or not. Only those procurement activities that are carried out by covered entities purchasing listed goods, services or construction services of a value exceeding specified threshold values are covered by the Agreement. These schedules are publicly available here.
As a binding international treaty, the GPA is administered by the Committee on Government Procurement which is composed of representatives of all its parties. The enforcement of the Agreement is realized through two mechanisms: the domestic review mechanism at the national level and the WTO dispute settlement mechanism at the international level.
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Evolution of the GPA
The revised GPA, which entered into force on 6 April 2014, is attracting more and more attention worldwide but liberalizing procurement markets is not a completely new idea. Early efforts to bring government procurement under internationally agreed trade rules were undertaken in the OECD framework. The matter was then brought into the Tokyo Round of Trade Negotiations within GATT in 1976.
As a result, the first agreement on government procurement (the so-called “Tokyo Round Code on Government Procurement”) was signed in 1979 and entered into force in 1981. It was amended in 1987 and the amendment entered into force in 1988. Parties to the agreement then held negotiations to extend the scope and coverage of the agreement in parallel with the Uruguay Round. Finally, a new Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA 1994) was signed in Marrakesh on 15 April 1994 — at the same time as the Agreement Establishing the WTO — and entered into force on 1 January 1996.
Within two years of the implementation of GPA 1994, the GPA parties initiated the renegotiation of the Agreement according to a built-in provision of the 1994 Agreement. The negotiation was concluded in December 2011 and the outcome of the negotiations was formally adopted in March 2012. Instruments of acceptance, often based on the completion of domestic ratification procedures, had to be submitted by two-thirds of the GPA parties in order for the revised Agreement to enter into force 30 days later. This requirement was fulfilled on 7 February 2014, with the tenth instrument of acceptance of the Agreement being deposited by Israel. The revised Agreement consequently entered into force on 6 April 2014.
Parties will continue improving the GPA. The revised GPA clearly sets out that, no later than three years after the entry into force of the revised GPA and periodically thereafter, the parties shall undertake further negotiations to progressively reduce and eliminate discriminatory measures and to achieve the greatest possible extension of the coverage. In this spirit, the GPA parties have also agreed to undertake a number of work programmes which will influence the future evolution of the Agreement.back to top
1. “Tokyo Round Code on Government Procurement” (1979)
Apr. 1979:1979 Code signed
Jan. 1981: 1979 Code enters into force
2. Revised “Tokyo Round Code on Government Procurement” (1987)
Nov. 1983: Negotiations to amend 1979 Code commence
Feb. 1987: Protocol of amendments to 1979 Code
Feb. 1988: Amended 1979 Code enters into force
3. Agreement on Government Procurement (1994)
Apr. 1994: GPA 1994 signed in Marrakesh
Jan. 1996: GPA 1994 enters into force
4. Revised Agreement on Government Procurement (2012)
Feb. 1997: Preparatory work for negotiations to revise GPA 1994
Mar. 2012: Protocol amending the GPA 1994
Apr. 2014: Revised GPA 1994 enters into force