Queensland procurement policy not contrary to trade agreements

August 14, 2017: Media Release: “Trade Minister Ciobo is wrong to suggest that the Queensland government procurement policy to give preference to small local suppliers contradicts Australia’s current trade agreements. All of these agreements have exceptions which allow some preference to small and medium-sized enterprises. South Australia and Victoria have similar policies, as do Australia’s trading partners like the US and South Korea,” AFTINET Convenor Dr Patricia Ranald said today.

Dr Ranald said it would be even more misleading to suggest that the policy breaches commitments in the WTO Government Procurement Agreement, because Australia has not yet joined that agreement, a voluntary agreement which covers only 47 of 196 WTO members.

“Negotiations with other governments are in progress behind closed doors, but we will not know the result until after they are finished. This underlines the need for more transparency in trade negotiations. We would be very concerned if the government is prepared to trade away the exemption for small and medium-size enterprises in the negotiations.”

Dr Ranald said there is clear community concern and a robust debate about the role of government procurement in supporting local jobs, reflected across the political spectrum. She explained that the recent bipartisan report of the Joint Select Committee on Government Procurement, entitled Buying into our future, which reviewed Commonwealth procurement guidelines, recommended that the guidelines should take into account the benefits to the economy from local employment and taxes paid.

Dr Ranald said that the report identified that many government procurement officers were not aware of existing exceptions and recommended training so that costing of procurement bids could take into account broader benefits of local employment to the economy (Recommendations 9 and 12).

The report also recommended that, in negotiating future World Trade Organisation or other trade agreements the Australian Government not enter into any commitments that could undermine the Australian Government’s ability to support Australian businesses (Recommendation 8).

Dr Ranald said that the government should implement these recommendations which were supported by government and non-government members of the committee.

 

See pdf of Media Release here.