Parties approved the requests from Ecuador and the Philippines for observer status in the GPA committee. This brings up to 34 the number of WTO members/observers that are observers to the Agreement; nine of these observers are in the process of negotiating their accession to the GPA.
Ecuador said its government has made transparency, non-discrimination and efficient use of state resources a goal for its procurement policies and noted that the Inter-American Development Bank has recognized Ecuador as having one of the most advanced procurement systems in Latin America. The government is sparing no efforts to institute ethics as an important part of its public policy framework. Observer status in the committee will help Ecuador strengthen transparency, combat corruption and share best practices with GPA parties, it added.
The Philippines said its government was also taking steps to create a transparent, open and fair procurement system, founded on a sound legal framework, which includes initiatives to open procurement to foreign suppliers. The Philippines acknowledges the GPA’s objective of fair, transparent and non-discriminatory competition for purchases of goods and services by governments and embraces the broader purpose of promoting good governance, the efficient and effective management of public resources, and the attainment of best value for money in national procurement systems.
Both Ecuador and the Philippines stated that they were looking forward to the opportunity to enhance their understanding of the GPA, exchange experiences with GPA parties/observers and to learn about good practices in government procurement.
GPA parties welcomed Ecuador and the Philippines as observers, and many expressed the hope that this would lead to a decision by them to start eventually negotiations on acceding to the GPA.
GPA parties also approved a request from the United Kingdom for an additional six months (until 27 February 2020) to deposit its instrument of acceptance to the GPA. The UK was initially given until 27 August to formally accept the GPA following the decision by parties at the last committee meeting in February to approve the terms for the UK’s accession to the GPA in its own right.
The United Kingdom explained that the request was prompted by two developments: the 11 April agreement between the UK and the European Union extending the process for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU until 31 October 2019; and the need to incorporate amendments in order to include Australia within the scope of the UK’s coverage and to ensure continuity of the current relationship for Australia and the UK when the UK becomes a party to the GPA in its own right (Australia became the 48th WTO member party to the GPA on 5 May). Extending the acceptance deadline for the UK reflected the shared belief of parties and the UK that its participation in the GPA is to the benefit of all, the UK said.
Under the terms of the February decision, the UK is covered by the GPA as a member state of the EU until the date of its withdrawal from the EU or, if the EU and the UK conclude an agreement that provides for a transition period during which EU law would apply to and in the UK, until the date of expiry of that transition period.
Australia attended the 26 June committee meeting for the first time as a full GPA party. Australia said its status as a GPA party was a positive outcome for Australia, GPA parties and the multilateral trading system as a whole. Parties welcomed Australia to the committee in its new role. Australia indicated that, as a GPA party, it would engage actively across the spectrum of the committee’s work.
In an informal session of the committee, North Macedonia, China, the Russian Federation, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan updated GPA parties on their efforts to secure accession to the GPA.
The next meetings of the GPA committee are scheduled for the week of 21 October.
The aim of the GPA is to mutually open government procurement markets among its parties, consistent with principles of reciprocity. 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).
Accession to the GPA requires, in addition to the existence of GPA-compliant national procurement legislation, the reaching of agreement on the terms of participation by each acceding WTO member. This is achieved through negotiations with the existing parties to the Agreement.
The schedule of each party setting out terms of participation contains several annexes which define the party’s commitments with respect to four dimensions of coverage:
- the procuring entities covered by the Agreement
- the goods, services and construction services covered by the Agreement
- the threshold values above which procurement activities are covered by the Agreement
- exceptions to the coverage.