UK to Join Government Procurement Agreement at WTO Independent Brexit
At a meeting of the WTO’s Committee on Government Procurement on 27 November 2018, parties to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) approved in principle the United Kingdom’s final market access offer to take part in the GPA, in its own right, following its departure from the European Union. Parties to the Agreement are now deliberating on the language of a decision to be put for formal acceptance at a later stage. Australia also announced that ratification of its GPA accession is under way.
GPA parties have agreed in principle to the UK's final market access offer, which is intended to replicate its current GPA schedule of commitments as an EU member. Parties welcomed the possibility for their suppliers to continue enjoying the same access to the UK's government procurement market. All parties re-emphasized their clear desire for the UK to continue participating in the Agreement in a seamless manner post-Brexit.
The GPA is a WTO plurilateral agreement covering 47 member governments which have opened procurement activities worth an estimated US$ 1.7 trillion annually to international competition. This includes government purchases of goods, services and construction services. The Agreement aims to ensure open, fair and transparent conditions of competition in parties' government procurement markets, based on principles of reciprocity and to the extent agreed by members.
Under the draft EU withdrawal agreement negotiated separately between the EU and the UK and currently subject to internal approval procedures in those jurisdictions, the UK would remain bound by international treaties signed by the EU, including the GPA, until the end of the transition period foreseen in the agreement. In the meeting of the GPA Committee, the EU and the UK confirmed their joint position that the UK would join the GPA at the end of the transition period and would be treated as an EU member state until then. Parties are now consulting with each other to agree on appropriate language for a draft GPA Committee decision which will be put for their formal approval at a later stage.
The Chair, Mr Carlos Vanderloo of Canada, highlighted "a very positive discussion which revealed clear support by parties for the UK's final market access offer" and expressed hope for “a swift conclusion” of the accession process.
The UK reiterated that it intends to update its proposed GPA schedule of commitments within three months of their coming into effect, to reflect evolutions within its government procurement market. Members welcomed the UK's commitment to ensuring transparency and clarity.
The UK launched its GPA negotiations in June 2018 by submitting to parties an initial market access offer and replies to a checklist on its national government procurement system. As an EU member, the UK has been participating in the GPA for over 20 years.
Also at the meeting, Australia announced that its terms of accession to the GPA were expected to be tabled in its national parliament on 27 November, just one month after Australia's related bid was accepted by the GPA parties. Parties welcomed Australia's efforts to formally conclude its GPA accession.