China will start negotiations about joining a global organization that will
allow its firms to bid for government contracts around the world.
Yu Guangzhou, China's vice-minister of commerce, said yesterday the country
would join the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) by the end of next year.
When China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, it promised to
initiate negotiations for membership in the GPA "as soon as possible."
The GPA allows companies from any member economies to bid for government
procurement contracts in other member economies.
Yu said China had carried out a series of measures to prepare the way for
joining the GPA.
China has issued the Government Procurement Law and relevant regulations as
the basis of the country's procurement system.
The government is also trying to improve transparency in government
procurement, the vice-minister said.
"In all sectors that have so far been opened to foreigners, non-Chinese
suppliers enjoy the same opportunities as local firms when they compete for
government projects," he said.
The country has also begun talking to GPA members.
It recently began a series of technical co-operation activities with the
European Union in a bid to provide both sides with a better understanding of
each other's procurement policies.
"The European Union is a major trading partner and China has become our
second largest supplier, so opening up our government procurement markets to
each other's suppliers would be a natural extension of these developments," said
Charlie McCreevy, the European Commissioner responsible for the internal market.
However, the country still faces a number of problems before it can join the
Yu said China's government procurement system was not as complete as in
certain Western countries.
China's legal framework is not good enough, and the sector lacks specialists
and complete operational mechanisms.
China should open the government procurement market gradually, suggested Feng
Chun, an expert with the Central University of Finance and Economics.
He said the timetable for opening up would vary according to different
regions and different industries.
The government should also pay attention to the protection of domestic
companies at the same time as opening up the market, Feng said.
Government procurement is a significant part of a national economy, covering
a range of sectors, such as commodity trade, service trade and public works.
(China Daily 05/17/2006 page9)
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