WTO Government Procurement Agreement: Background (2013 Archive)

This posting provides background on the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA)

 Exclusion of Government Procurement from GATT

  • The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was signed in 1947, excluded government procurement.

 1981 GATT Code on Government Procurement

  •  The GATT Code on Government Procurement (GATT Code) was negotiated during the Tokyo Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations.
  • It entered into force on January 1, 1981, and remained in force for 15 years – through 1995, when it was replaced by the WTO Government Procurement Agreement.
  • The GATT Code was the first international trade agreement to apply to government procurement.
  • The GATT Code was a plurilateral agreement, which meant that it did not apply to all of the GATT Members; it only applied to the 28 GATT Members that had signed on to it.
  • The GATT Code applied to the procurement of goods by central government entities specified by each Party.
  • The GATT Code was amended once — in 1988.

1994 WTO Government Procurement Agreement

  • The Agreement on Government Procurement (1994) (GPA) was signed in Marrakesh, Morocco on April 15, 1994, at the same time as the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization (WTO).
  • The GPA is one of the plurilateral Agreements that was included in Annex 4 to the Agreement Establishing the WTO.
  • The GPA replaced the GATT Code.
  • The GPA entered into force for all (but one) of its signatories on January 1, 1996:  the European Union (EU) (and its 15 Member States: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom), Israel, Japan, Norway, Switzerland and the United States.  It entered into force on January 1, 1997 for the Republic of Korea, which had not been a party to the GATT Code.
  • Subsequently, four GATT Parties joined the GPA through accession:  the Netherlands with respect to Aruba on October 25, 1996; Hong Kong, China on June 19, 1997; Liechtenstein on September 18, 1997; and Singapore on October 20, 1997.
  • Three other GATT Code Parties (Austria, Finland and Sweden) were brought under the GPA through their membership in the European Union.  They became EU Member States on January 1, 1995, and were incorporated into the EU’s GPA commitments under Article XXIV:6 of the GPA on January 16, 1997.
  • The GPA covers goods, services and construction services, and applies to three categories of entities:  central government entities, sub-central government entities and government enterprises.
  • Each Party specifies the procurement that it covers in annexes to the GPA.
  • The GPA  requires the Parties to follow basic principles and procedures when they conduct procurement covered by the GPA. They are intended to ensure that  procurement is conducted in a manner that is transparent, fair and non-discriminatory.
  • A cornerstone of the GPA is the obligation to provide national treatment to the goods, services and suppliers of the other GPA Parties in procurement covered by the GPA. That means that GPA Parties cannot favor their domestic goods, services or suppliers in procurement covered under the GPA.

 2012 GPA Revision

  • The GPA Parties completed negotiations on a revision of the GPA at the 8th WTO Ministerial in December 2011.
  • The GPA Parties gave final approval to the 2011 agreement on the revision of the GPA in March 2012 with the adoption of the results of the negotiations in Decision on the Outcomes of the Negotiations under Article XXIV:7 of the Agreement on Government Procurement.
  •  The revised GPA was sent to the GPA Parties for ratification, in accordance with their respective domestic procedures.  The revised GPA cannot be implemented until it is ratified by two-thirds of the 15 WTO Parties.

Current GPA Membership

  • The GPA currently covers 43 WTO Members:  Armenia, Canada, the European Union and its 28 Member States (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom), Hong Kong China, Iceland, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands with respect to Aruba, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) and the United States.

Jean Heilman Grier

October 1, 2013