At a meeting of the Committee on Government Procurement on October 7, 2020, parties to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) invited the United Kingdom to complete the remaining steps to join the Agreement in its own right following its departure from the European Union. They also applauded Brazil for submitting the first documentation required to start negotiations to join the Agreement.
UK’s accession in its own right to the GPA
At the meeting, GPA parties adopted a decision granting the UK the right to submit its GPA instrument of accession to the Committee in 2021. This is the final step required for the UK to join the GPA in its own right. As a former EU member, the UK still remains covered by the GPA under the transition period agreed between the UK and the EU. This transition period ends on 31 December 2020.
The decision will allow the UK to accede to the GPA as soon as the UK’s transition period with the EU expires. The UK’s Ambassador to the WTO, Julian Braithwaite, reiterated “the UK’s longstanding support for the deal [GPA] and constructive engagement in the Committee”. He stressed the UK’s willingness to ensure continued access for foreign suppliers to its government procurement markets, worth GBP 68 billion under its market access offer, in exchange for continued access for UK businesses to “[market] coverage under the GPA worth over GBP 1.3 trillion”. The UK’s full statement can be found here.
GPA parties said they look forward to receiving the UK’s updated market access schedule reflecting the latest changes in its government structure after the UK’s accession becomes effective in the new year.The Chair of the Committee, Carlos Vanderloo from Canada, praised delegations for having “come together in constructive and pragmatic ways to ensure continuity in the United Kingdom’s participation in the GPA”.
Brazil’s accession to the GPA
Parties applauded Brazil for having promptly circulated its replies to a checklist of issues regarding its government procurement legislation, the first step to “jumpstart” negotiations on joining the GPA. Brazil’s Ambassador to the WTO, Alexandre Parola, said that the government is “working hard to present an ambitious initial market access offer”, which it hopes to submit by the end of the year.
Brazil submitted its application to join the GPA on May 18, 2021. It is the first Latin American country seeking to become a party to the Agreement. The Committee praised Brazil for sending a powerful signal in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
Côte d’Ivoire’s observer status
The president of Côte d’Ivoire’s Autorité Nationale de Régulation des Marchés Publics, Yacouba Coulibaly, conveyed the government’s ambition to bring its public procurement system in line with international standards and promote transparent and equitable procedures in the country. He said that Côte d’Ivoire’s participation in the GPA Committee as an observer since July coincides with recent improvements in the country’s government procurement laws. In addition to currently developing an e-platform to facilitate government procurement procedures, Côte d’Ivoire has also increased the value of approved public procurement contracts from USD 238 million in 2009 to USD 2.2 billion in 2019.
The Chair underscored “the importance of Africa’s increased representation in the Committee and encouraged Côte d’Ivoire to participate actively”. Côte d’Ivoire is the third African country to become an observer to the Committee, after Cameroon and the Seychelles.
Currently, the Committee has 35 observers that are WTO members, one observer to the WTO (Belarus) and four international organizations. Among these, 12 WTO members with GPA observer status are also in the process of acceding to the Agreement. To become a party, observers to the Committee are first required to submit a separate application to start negotiations with other GPA parties.
The GPA is a plurilateral agreement — open to all WTO members but binding only the parties to the Agreement. Each applicant’s terms of participation are negotiated with GPA parties and set out in its respective market access schedule. These schedules contain several annexes defining the party’s commitments with respect to:
- the procuring entities whose procurement processes will be open to foreign bidders
- the goods, services and construction services open to foreign competition
- the threshold values above which procurement activities will be open to foreign competition
- exceptions to the coverage.
Currently, 48 WTO members are bound by the Agreement. Australia is the latest member to have acceded to the Agreement in 2019. The GPA aims to open up, in a reciprocal manner and to the extent agreed between WTO members, government procurement markets to foreign competition, and make government procurement more transparent. It provides legal guarantees of non-discrimination for the products, services and suppliers of GPA parties in covered procurement activities. Government procurement typically accounts for about 15 % of developed and developing countries’ economies.