Short History and Objectives of the 1994 WTO Agreement

Part of the International Political Economy Series book series (IPES)


Definitions are central to the regulation of public procurement, especially given the blurring that has occurred in recent years between public and private entities and their respective areas of activity. This is particularly true in a WTO context where, as has been described, there is generally a positive list approach to entity coverage, and a variety of member practices with respect to the listing of specific entities.1 Following an overview of the nature of the political challenges that arise in defining procurement — the ‘carrot’ that goes with the ‘stick’ of taxation — this chapter will develop a working definition for this public activity. It will then briefly summarize the historical evolution of the WTO procurement disciplines, proceeding from the UN negotiations immediately after the Second World War on this subject in the context of efforts to create an International Trade Organization (ITO), describing the lengthy discussions over the ‘concept of discrimination’ in public procurement that took place during the 1960s and 1970s in the OECD (Blank et al., 1996) and, ultimately, resulted in the Tokyo Round ‘code’ on government procurement, and concluding with the coming into force of the 1994 GPA. This ‘story’ has been well documented (Blank et al., 1996; McCrudden, 2007). As will be seen, however, one cannot appreciate the comparative politics that underlie the GPA’s regulatory methodology without revisiting it.


Public Procurement Uruguay Round Government Procurement Dispute Settlement Mechanism Tokyo Round 
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  1. 4.
    Article XVII, paragraph 2, more precisely, requires that state trading entities ‘shall accord to the trade of the other contracting parties fair and equitable treatment’. John Jackson described this as an ‘MFN-like requirement’, but it has never been questioned or raised as an object of complaint in a GATT or WTO dispute. See J. H. Jackson, World trade and the law of GATT: a legal analysis of the general agreement on tariffs and trade (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1969).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Susan Brown-Shafii 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.World Trade InstituteUniversity of BernSwitzerland

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