This post highlights agenda items that the WTO procurement committee is expected to take up when it meets on October 19. They include the potential approval of the accessions of Australia and the Kyrgyz Republic to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), based on new offers. Another item is the development of best practices to facilitate the participation of small and medium-sized sized enterprises (SMEs) in government procurement.
Australia’s Revised Offer: On September 30, Australia submitted a revised offer in its negotiations to join the GPA. According to the Washington Trade Daily (Oct. 3, 2016), Australia’s latest offer expands the procurement that it will open under the GPA. If the parties are satisfied with the new offer, Australia may be on track to join the GPA by the end of the year, fulfilling an aim it expressed when it submitted its initial offer in 2015.
Particularly significant is its coverage of services, where it is switching from the use of a positive list (opening only the services it lists) to a negative list (opening all services except those excluded). This will align its approach to services coverage with that of New Zealand, Ukraine and the United States. All the other GPA parties use a positive list. Australia also uses a negative list for its services coverage in its bilateral trade agreement with the U.S. and in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Generally, countries open more services when they use a negative list, because they cover new services that are developed.
Australia is also proposing to use the same thresholds in the GPA as it does in the TPP, and that it will apply in its U.S. bilateral agreement, based on a side letter to the TPP. The other elements of its procurement offer are likely to be generally in line with its bilateral agreement and TPP commitments.
Kyrgyz Republic: On October 4, the Kyrgyz Republic submitted a final offer in its GPA accession negotiations. This followed a revised initial offer that it tabled in January, which reactivated its accession that had been dormant since it circulated its first offer in 2002. The Kyrgyz Republic’s accession to the GPA would fulfill a commitment it made when it joined the WTO in 1998.
Kazakhstan: On September 1, Kazakhstan requested observer status in the GPA committee. The committee is expected to approve the request. That will enable Kazakhstan to monitor GPA developments in advance of its own pursuit of membership in the Agreement, which it has committed to begin in late 2019.
SME Work Program: At its upcoming meeting, the Committee is expected to consider next steps in its Work Program on Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, initiated in April 2014 when the revision of the GPA was implemented. The WTO Secretariat has compiled the results of a survey of the measures and policies that the parties use to assist, promote, encourage or facilitate SME participation in government procurement. Based on the survey results, the Work Program calls for the Committee to identify and promote best practices to advance SME involvement in procurement. As for “other measures” that are not considered best practices, the Work Program provides that parties maintaining such measures be encouraged to review them with a view to their elimination or application to the SMEs of the other parties. It would be no surprise if the small business set-asides maintained by the United States for its small businesses were included in this category, as they have long been a source of criticism by other GPA parties.
Jean Heilman Grier
October 11, 2016