Volume 48
Issue 4
Summer '17

The Revised WTO Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA): Key Design Features and Significance for Global Trade and Development

Written By: Robert D. Anderson and Anna Caroline Müller

Abstract

The World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) plurilateral Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA or “the Agreement”) is an important ongoing success story for the Organization. In the spring of 2012, the GPA Parties completed a full revision of the Agreement, with regard to both its text and market access commitments under it. Since then, the revised GPA has entered into force, and its membership has gradually broadened. These developments are of importance not only in themselves, but also for the international trading system and its potential future evolution.

The GPA’s successful renegotiation, the continuing growth of its membership, and its vitality as an instrument of public policy were not achieved through happenstance. This Article discusses a number of specific design features of the GPA that clearly facilitated the successful conclusion of the renegotiation and that, as such, may in the future be relevant to other areas of global trade liberalization. In addition to the Agreement’s plurilateral nature, of particular interest are the approach taken with respect to application of the most-favorednation treatment (MFN) principle in the Agreement; the GPA’s continuing strong emphasis on principles of reciprocity in market access concessions; and its approach to special and differential treatment for developing countries, in all of which it differs from approaches which are widely used in other WTO Agreements.

Apart from the above, the GPA revision is important for the merging of trade and good governance concerns that it exemplifies. As discussed in this Article, the themes of governance and the sound management of public resources that are treated in the revised Agreement were not afterthoughts to the renegotiation. Rather, they permeate the revised text and received focused attention from the Parties in their own right. As well, the GPA has direct implications for investment policy and for domestic economic reforms, and is an important tool of e-commerce. Moreover, the revision has made possible very significant synergies between the GPA and other international instruments and activities in reducing barriers to participation and strengthening governance in public procurement markets. For all these reasons, the revised Agreement is likely to have a wider impact than meets the eye, and well merits the support and attention that it has received from the participating WTO Member governments.

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