Trade Agreement Allows Queensland Procurement Policy

Queensland procurement policy not contrary to trade
agreements, says fair trade group

“Trade
Minister Ciobo is wrong to suggest that the Queensland
government procurement policy to give preference to small
local suppliers contradicts Australia’s current trade
agreements. All of these agreements have exceptions which
allow some preference to small and medium-sized enterprises.
South Australia and Victoria have similar policies, as do
Australia’s trading partners like the US and South
Korea,” AFTINET Convenor Dr Patricia Ranald said
today.

Dr Ranald said it would be even more misleading to
suggest that the policy breaches commitments in the WTO
Government Procurement Agreement, because Australia has not
yet joined that agreement, a voluntary agreement which
covers only 47 of 196 WTO members.

“Negotiations with
other governments are in progress behind closed doors, but
we will not know the result until after they are finished.
This underlines the need for more transparency in trade
negotiations. We would be very concerned if the government
is prepared to trade away the exemption for small and
medium-size enterprises in the negotiations.”

Dr Ranald
said there is clear community concern and a robust debate
about the role of government procurement in supporting local
jobs, reflected across the political spectrum. She explained
that the recent bipartisan report of the Joint Select Committee on
Government Procurement, entitled Buying into our
future
,
which reviewed Commonwealth procurement
guidelines, recommended that the guidelines should take into
account the benefits to the economy from local employment
and taxes paid.

Dr Ranald said that the report identified
that many government procurement officers were not aware of
existing exceptions and recommended training so that costing
of procurement bids could take into account broader benefits
of local employment to the economy (Recommendations 9 and
12).

The report also recommended that, in negotiating
future World Trade Organisation or other trade agreements
the Australian Government not enter into any commitments
that could undermine the Australian Government’s ability
to support Australian businesses (Recommendation 8).

Dr
Ranald said that the government should implement these
recommendations which were supported by government and
non-government members of the
committee.

ENDS

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