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China adds 15 govt departments to GPA list

By Li Xiang (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-08-19 09:18
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BEIJING - China on Tuesday reportedly added 15 government departments under the State Council's ministries into its latest offer to join the government procurement agreement (GPA) of the World Trade Organization (WTO), a move that may help push forward the country's ongoing negotiations with GPA members.

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The newly added departments include the State Administration of Grain, the National Energy Administration and the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, the 21st Century Business Herald reported.

However, central State-owned enterprises (SOE) and local governments were not included in the revised offer, the newspaper said.

The United States and Europe welcomed the new offer but said further improvements are still needed such as expanding procurement entities to local governments and State-run enterprises under the direct administration of the State Council, the newspaper cited a unnamed person close to the negotiation as saying.

Experts said local governments and central SOEs are being evaluated but they are unlikely to be included in the procurement list immediately due to the complicated laws and policies.

China entered the WTO in 2001 without joining the GPA, which regulates trade in public-sector purchases. The procurement agreement now governs 41 of the WTO's 153 members, including the US, 27 members of the European Union and Japan.

Western countries have been pushing China to join the agreement so that foreign bidders could get access to its multi-billion-dollar State contracts and government purchase markets.

Last month, China took a step forward by making significant changes in a revised offer to join the agreement after its first proposal was turned down by the US and other WTO members in 2007.

In the revised offer, China lowered the threshold for contracts and expanded the range of procurement entities covered by the pact. The implementation period was also reduced to five years from 15 years as had been indicated in the initial offer.

A new round of negotiations is scheduled for October and there will be further in-depth discussions on the revised GPA offer and on the process of China's accession.

China's procurement market was valued at 700 billion yuan ($100 billion) in 2009 and is expected to grow by more than 15 percent annually if the country joins the GPA.

Sun Zhenyu, the country's WTO ambassador, told China Daily earlier that China wanted to join the pact as soon as possible but other members should not be "too demanding" on its improved offer.

The GPA is "quite a new term" for China and it will take "time and effort" for the country to improve its offer over the agreement, Sun said.