Perspectives on Trade

WTO Procurement Committee Opens Negotiating Files

The WTO procurement committee, which oversees the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), has advanced significantly the transparency of its work. It has opened the files on the negotiations of the 2012 revision of the plurilateral agreement. This major contribution to transparency applies to both the market access negotiations and the revision of the text of the 1994 agreement. This post outlines the scope of documents now available to the public.

At its November 2023 meeting, the WTO procurement committee removed the restrictions on the documents relating to the negotiations of the current GPA in a decision on the Derestriction of Negotiating Documents (GPA/CD/5). Prior to that decision, the documentation of the negotiations had been kept out of the public domain. As of November 8, 2023, the public can access documents on negotiations of both the revisions of the GPA text and the expansion of procurement commitments. 

The first set of (more than 100) documents, listed in Table 1 of the Decision, are informal notes prepared by the WTO Secretariat relating to the text negotiations. They include (with relevant years) Checklists of Issues raised in informal consultations (1997-99), suggested drafting changes (1999-2002), revisions of the 1994 GPA text (2003-11), Side-by-Side Texts (2004-06), Verifications of the Linguistic Consistency of the English, French, and Spanish versions of the revised GPA (2007-10), and draft decisions and submissions relating to the Committee’s Agreed Work Programs (2010-11).

The second set of documents (115), listed in Table 2 of the Decision, are the official documents comprising the market access negotiations. They were submitted by the 16 GPA parties between the initiation of the negotiations in 2004 and their conclusion in 2012. They include parties’ requests for improvements in other parties’ coverage, their market access offers, and exchanges of questions and responses relating to the offers.

The market access negotiations were based on a framework, “Modalities for the Negotiations on Extension of Coverage and Elimination of Discriminatory Measures and Practices” (GPA/79), adopted by the committee in July 2004. It called for the parties to first exchange requests for improvements in coverage, and then market access offers. Those documents had been circulated as restricted documents that were not available to the public. The committee has now removed those restrictions.

The newly released documents provide insights into the development of the revision of the GPA text and expansion of market access commitments. For example, a comparison of the requests for improvements and the final offers of coverage demonstrates the differences in the parties’ ambitions and illuminates why the market access negotiations did not conclude until 2012. 

For a discussion of the outcome of the negotiations of the revised GPA, see The International Procurement System(Dalston Press 2022), available from Amazon, Apple Books, and IngramSpark.

Jean Heilman Grier

November 29, 2023

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    Book: The International Procurement System Government procurement required 40 years and substantial efforts to become part of the international trade regime, even though it comprises a significant part of the global economy. The international system requires governments to balance protectionist forces favoring local suppliers against the pressures of liberalization, which expand procurement markets and lower prices.