Government procurement accounts for an average of 10-15% of an economy's GDP. It is a rapidly growing market and an important aspect of international trade. International agreements in the field of public procurement aim to ensure the effective functioning of competition and mutual and non-discriminatory access to government procurement markets between the Parties above certain thresholds. Such agreements support the public authorities’ goal to achieve an optimal use of public funds when procuring goods, services and construction services.
The international legal framework in the field of public procurement is provided by the plurilateral Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) concluded under the aegis of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The GPA is a preferential plurilateral agreement and currently has 21 parties (including Switzerland) comprising 48 WTO members, of which the 27 European Union (EU) member states together as one party.
In addition to the GPA, Switzerland's network of trade agreements in the field of public procurement is complemented by bilateral agreements on certain aspects of public procurement between Switzerland and the EU and the United Kingdom respectively, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Convention and free trade agreements with third countries.
All these agreements are based on the basic rules of the multilateral trading system, namely transparency, non-discrimination and national treatment. However, they are preferential agreements, meaning that only the signatories benefit from the terms of the agreement, unlike multilateral agreements regulating trade in goods or services in the WTO and other plurilateral agreements that satisfy the principle of "most favored nation" treatment.
For Switzerland, the agreements covering public procurement improve transparency, international governance and legal certainty in the area of public procurement. Access to world markets for Swiss bidders is significantly increased and the conditions for such access are improved.
The annual value of government procurement covered by the GPA has been estimated by the WTO Secretariat at over USD 1’700 billion. As a result, agreements facilitating access to international government procurement contribute to achieving global trade liberalization and expansion.