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EU-China launch technical cooperation on government procurement
EU-China launch technical cooperation on government procurement

The EU-China Conference on Government Procurement (GP) was held in Beijing today, marking the launch of a series of technical cooperation activities on GP. The activities aim to provide both sides with a better understanding of each others procurement policies as well as of international agreements such as the GP Agreement under the WTO.

Charlie McCreevy, European Commissioner responsible for the Internal Market, opened the conference, emphasizing the importance of GP policies to ensure an open, competitive economy, and for governments to obtain best “value for money”.

“Governments are a nation’s most important buyer,” McCreevy said. “In the EU alone, purchases of public authorities account for as much as the whole French economy, or as much as the worldwide sales of the automotive industry,” he said, adding that in Europe, prices paid by authorities were reduced by up to 30% when GP rules are applied.

The EU-China Regulatory Dialogue on GP, a forum for officials to exchange information and views on GP, was opened in parallel to the conference. A comparative study on GP practices in China and the EU will also be carried out by the EU-China Trade Project, an EU-funded trade-related technical assistance project in China.

Topics discussed at the conference include Public Private Partnerships (PPP), where governments and businesses share responsibilities in carrying out large-scale projects, modern acquisition techniques, such as electronic bidding processes for government contracts, and remedies, or procedures with which businesses can challenge government awarding decisions.

The EU also expressed its delight with China’s recent decision to start negotiations on accession to the WTO’s GP Agreement by December 2007, an international agreement which binds signatories to transparent and non-discriminatory rules when awarding government contracts.

“The EU is the main trading partner of China and China has become our second largest supplier…opening our government procurement markets up to each others suppliers would be a natural extension of these recent developments,” McCreevy said.

Both sides also acknowledged the need for further internal reform, such as cutting red tape and improving consistency. “The number of legal cases against (EU) member states in the field of government procurement system reveals there are still too many unresolved issues,” Alexander Schaub, Director-General for the Internal Market and Services said.

Pointing to the EU’s experience in building a procurement system from scratch, Schaub further pledged efforts to facilitate China’s progression toward a comprehensive GP regime. “The EU is ready to provide assistance and to accommodate, to the extent possible, China’s specific needs and interests. It goes without saying that I trust and expect China to accommodate the EU’s,” he said.