ALLOCUTIONS — DG ROBERTO AZEVÊDO

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Good morning everyone.

Welcome to the WTO and to this workshop on Government Procurement and Governance Issues.

It's great to have you all here today.

At the outset, I would like to thank Rob Anderson and the whole team for organizing this workshop.

The event stands out for many reasons. It is the first time that we are holding a three-day workshop of this kind here at the WTO. And it also brings a different perspective to the table.

Usually our capacity building efforts in this area focus on market access issues involved in government procurement. However, this initiative focuses primarily on governance matters.

More specifically, the discussions over the next days will look at issues such as: the prevention of corruption and supplier collusion in government procurement; and how domestic review processes and supplier complaint systems can help these efforts.

Ultimately, these issues are central to the efficient and effective operation of any national procurement system. So it is very encouraging to see your interest and engagement here.

We all know the importance of the government procurement sector to the global economy. Government procurement accounts for a significant proportion of GDP, on average 13-15% worldwide.

Moreover, government procurement is central in building infrastructure and in delivering essential public services, such as health, education and national defence.

However, there are also big challenges in the field. Issues such as corruption and supplier collusion, as I just mentioned, are present in many economies – both developed and developing.  

Tackling this can make a huge impact across the board.

If we can ensure that government procurement systems work well, then we can unlock opportunities for people around the world. This can have a direct impact on economic wellbeing, helping promote growth, development and job creation.

It is positive therefore that we are bringing a lot of expertise and experience together to look at these big questions.

As you prepare for your discussions, I would just like to highlight a few thoughts.

First, I think we need to keep in mind the importance of the rule-of-law in all of this.

Effective enforcement of national competition laws is important to the detection and deterrence of supplier collusion. The clear prohibition of bribery and related practices is also vital. And, as you will discuss during the seminar, robust domestic review systems to address supplier complaints are also important.

However, good rules will be inadequate to the task if officials lack adequate training or support. Therefore, we also need to think of ways to build adequate capacity in procurement workforces.

Efforts should also be made to engage the private sector and civil society to develop and adhere to well-understood norms and practices.

And, of course, electronic tools have a vital role to play in increasing transparency and ensuring accountability in the government procurement sector.

Finally, the WTO's Government Procurement Agreement – and particularly the modern, revised agreement which entered into force in 2014 – has a very significant contribution to make in this area as well.

This deal promotes good governance mechanisms in government procurement, built around the WTO’s fundamental principles of non-discrimination, transparency and predictability.

The GPA can help countries to manage the challenges that they face. For example, in grappling with corruption and supplier collusion issues, the GPA helps by strengthening competition and introducing new mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability.

More specifically, the Agreement helps to:

  • ensure standards of transparency and fair procedures for all market participants
  • expand the number and diversity of suppliers competing
  • encourage the use of modern e-procurement and data management tools, and
  • guarantee the role of strong, independent domestic review systems.

In addition, the Agreement can also serve as an inspiration for related domestic reforms. Indeed, some of the countries that have recently joined the Agreement are using it precisely for this purpose.

Let me make a broader point here.

I think the GPA is a good illustration of what can be achieved at the WTO.

Its 2014 revision was one of a series of recent achievements, together with:

  • the Trade Facilitation Agreement in 2013,
  • the elimination of agricultural export subsidies in 2015, and
  • the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement, also in 2015.

These agreements deliver real economic benefits. They illustrate the variety of initiatives that can be pursued under the WTO umbrella. And they illustrate the value of cooperation and engagement at the global level.

In the face of rising tensions in the trading system today, this is more important than ever.

The WTO provides the foundations on which trade is built today. WTO rules cover around 98% of global trade. The system has overseen a historic opening of markets and integration of economies. It has provided stability and predictability in global trade – holding firm even during the financial crisis. And, as a result, it has helped to fuel growth and development around the world as well as a dramatic reduction in poverty.

Without it we would surely face a future of uncertainty, lower growth and diminished opportunities everywhere.

So we must preserve what we have, even as we work to improve it.

With that in mind, your deliberations here this week are particularly welcome.

I hope that you will make the most out of these three days.

Sharing views and information on best practices can help advance conversations on procurement issues. And it can help us to find other concrete areas where we may be able to make a real difference.

So I wish you a very productive workshop. Be proactive. Get engaged. And I look forward to hearing the reports of your discussions.

Thank you.  

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