4 June 2010 | Paul Snell

China is to submit a revised application to join the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) reciprocal procurement deal.

At the end of a China-US summit in Beijing last month the Chinese government said it would make another offer to join the WTO agreement on government procurement (known as the GPA) by July this year. China initially submitted a request to join the GPA in 2001, but it was never completed.

If the other members of the GPA accept China’s application, it would open the market for Chinese government contracts – estimated to be worth around £20 billion a year – to foreign vendors.

“This is progress,” said US Treasury secretary Tim Geithner at the end of the summit. “It does not fully resolve our concerns, but it gives us a set of basic principles on which to move forward.”

The GPA has 41 signatories, including the US, Japan and all the members of the European Union. But accession can be a lengthy process. It took Taiwan, the most recent signatory, 14 years from application to acceptance last summer.

A dispute has been simmering between the US and China since the latter announced its intention to introduce an “indigenous innovation product accreditation”. Under this, Chinese public sector buyers would give preference to goods for which the intellectual property is developed and owned in China.

At the start of the summit Geithner said US businesses would lose out as a result of this. But China has now published draft regulations explaining what constitutes a “domestic product” for public comment.

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