Parliamentary Committee says Australia should join the WTO Procurement Agreement

April 1, 2019: The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties has produced Report 185 recommending that Australia accede to the revised WTO Procurement Agreement (GPA). There is no implementing legislation because the only required legislation for accession was the Government Procurement (Judicial Review) Act which was passed in October 2018 with other implementing legislation for the TPP 11.

This means there will be no separate opportunity for the whole parliament to debate the WTO Procurement Agreement, which reflects the lack of democracy and accountability in the current trade agreement process.

The AFTINET submission noted that no independent assessment was provided of the economic costs and benefits of the agreement. AFTINET also noted that the EU has signalled that it regards Australia’s exemptions for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and Indigenous enterprises as discriminatory, and may seek to reduce them in future.

The Committee report noted, as it has done in previous inquiries, that reliable quantitative data on the benefits of the Agreement would assist the Committee in its deliberations (para 3.52)

The report also urged the Australian Government to resist any future pressure from other governments to weaken the exceptions Australia has gained, particularly for SMEs and Indigenous businesses (para 3.53).

The Report claims that Australian State and Territory governments are currently largely compliant with GPA commitments, with minor changes to procurement rules required for implementation, that each state and territory supports Australia’s accession to the GPA, and all have said that they will take the necessary steps to ensure their procurement policies and procedures comply with the GPA commitments by January 1, 2019 (paras 3.48-49).