Thursday, October 14, 2010

Trade Negotiators Push to Liberalize Public Procurement

(New York Times – Reuters)

Trading powers are in a final push to liberalize the market for purchases by public authorities worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year, and are seeking to lock China into the global procurement system as well.

The talks are separate to the World Trade Organization’s long-running Doha round to free up global trade, but could arguably have a much bigger impact on businesses.

Government procurement has moved center stage after the economic crisis put public infrastructure spending at the heart of economic stimulus packages. At the same time “Buy American” policies in the United States and similar measures in other countries have raised fears of protectionism in the sector.

And the huge infrastructure needs and projects of emerging economies have raised the prospect of lucrative new markets opening in an area so far dominated by rich nations. Diplomats at the WTO say a new government procurement agreement (GPA) or at least its outlines, could be concluded this year and talks to bring in new members have gathered pace.

“Our objective is to wrap up the revision as soon as possible and continue to work closely with China and others as they enter the process of accession,” Robert Kasper, a U.S. trade diplomat to the WTO, said at a forum last month. Read more here.