U.K. Wins Provisional Support to Join $1.7 Trillion WTO Deal

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K.’s effort to rejoin a key World Trade Organization agreement that governs public procurement opportunities worth $1.7 trillion a year gained provisional backing on Tuesday.

Members of the 46-nation Government Procurement Agreement said they’re willing to offer their support, in principle, to allow the U.K. to become part of the deal, U.K. Ambassador to the WTO Julian Braithwaite said in an interview in Geneva. The U.K. is currently a member due to its place in the European Union, which it leaves in March.

“I want to thank all the GPA parties who were unanimous in their support for the U.K.’s continued participation in the GPA,” Braithwaite said following the meeting.

The EU plans to circulate draft language next week regarding the implications of the planned Brexit withdrawal agreement to be inserted in a future decision on the U.K.’s accession to the GPA. Members will review the language at a meeting tentatively scheduled for Dec. 14.

Expedited Approval

The purpose of the GPA is to open up, in a reciprocal manner, government procurement markets to foreign competition, and help make public purchasing more transparent among the deal’s members.

A U.K. bid to join the agreement was unsuccessful last month after British officials argued that it should receive expedited approval to the accord because it’s already a GPA member by virtue of its status in the EU. But trade partners balked at the U.K. offer, saying it didn’t take into account British agencies that have emerged since the EU joined, like the Department for International Trade.

That admission request was opposed by the U.S. Canada, Israel, Japan, Moldova, New Zealand, South Korea, and Ukraine.

If the British parliament approves Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for a transitional period to withdraw from the EU, the U.K. will continue to be bound by its current GPA commitments during that period.

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