The Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb, announced on 14 November 2014 that Australia will work towards accession to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA). The GPA is a significant WTO plurilateral agreement which offers legally-binding access to government procurement markets estimated at USD1.7 trillion. The GPA has 43 members which will increase as New Zealand and Montenegro prepare to join. Further WTO members, most notably China, are engaged in accession negotiations. The Agreement’s main principles are transparency and non-discrimination. It requires GPA members to offer other members’ suppliers conditions ‘no less favourable’ than domestic suppliers. In addition, the GPA provides for domestic review procedures to enable aggrieved firms to seek a review of procurement decisions.
The Australian Services Roundtable‘s (ASR) key strategic focus is to secure Australia’s position in the global professional services economy, and accordingly we welcome and support the Government’s efforts to finalise Australian accession to the GPA. In particular, ASR supports these efforts now because of the newly expanded scope of the GPA to include coverage of all ‘services procured for governmental purposes’, most recently telecommunications and construction services. In the past, this Agreement’s sole focus on goods procurement removed it from ASR’s member interests.
Public procurement and related international trade disciplines are likely to be even more important in the future for global economic growth and development than they are at present. Estimates indicate that overall government procurement spending accounts for as much as 15–20 per cent of GDP, on average, worldwide, though much of this is not yet covered by current international disciplines. Moreover, investment and other public procurement in emerging market economies in Africa, Asia and Latin America is likely to be a major driving force of economic growth in the years to come.