Public sector buyers are being advised to familiarise themselves with the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) and the UK’s commitments under the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).
In a Procurement Policy Note (PPN), the Cabinet Office (CO) said buyers needed to recognise “the rights of EU suppliers and EU-owned but UK-based suppliers in public procurement”.
The UK joined the GPA on 1 January 2021 as a member in its own right, having previously being a member through the EU.
“Contracting authorities should therefore be aware that the requirements relating to the GPA set out in this PPN represent a continuation of current practices,” said the CO.
“The GPA aims to mutually open government procurement markets among its parties, and seeks to address trade barriers, such as preferential treatment of domestic goods and services, in the government procurement sector. The GPA applies to procurement opportunities undertaken by certain types of authorities for certain types of contracts with a value above certain thresholds.”
The PPN said the GPA “imposes a legal obligation on public authorities when awarding contracts above the thresholds to treat domestic and GPA suppliers equally, and not discriminate by, amongst other things, favouring national suppliers”.
The TCA, signed by the UK on 30 December 2020, “provisionally applied” from 1 January 2021 even though it is pending formal approval by EU institutions.
The PPN said the TCA would “provide market access that go beyond the level set in the GPA” and “protect UK-owned businesses based in the EU from the risk of discrimination in EU public procurements”.
“The TCA will also open up public procurement markets in utilities in the gas and heat sector and private utilities that act as a monopoly,” said the PPN.
“It also provides market access for an additional set of services, including a range of hospitality services, telecommunications, real estate, and education services. Contracting authorities will benefit as increased competition for public contracts provides value for money for taxpayers and improves the quality of public services.”