In Brief

8 May 2013

Liechtenstein Ratifies Revised GPA

Liechtenstein has become the first WTO member to ratify the revised Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), officials announced last week. The plurilateral pact currently covers 42 WTO members and gives them a framework for the procurement of goods, services, and capital infrastructure by public authorities (See Bridges Weekly, 6 March 2013).

The amended agreement still needs to be ratified by two-thirds of the GPA's parties before it can come into force. Many hope this process can be completed in time for the revised deal to come into force by December, when the WTO holds its Ninth Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia.

"By having completed its ratification process, Liechtenstein is showing the way," said WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy. The revised text of the Agreement and expansion of related market access commitments were negotiated by the parties for over a decade before being agreed at the 2011 WTO ministerial. (See Bridges Daily Update #2, 16 December 2011)

ICTSD reporting.

Obama, Peña Nieto Pledge Deeper Economic Ties

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and US President Barack Obama have agreed to establish a High Level Economic Dialogue (HLED) to boost commercial ties between their countries, in their first meeting since the former's taking office.

"I believe we've got a historic opportunity to foster even more cooperation, more trade, more jobs on both sides of the border, and that's the focus of my visit," Obama told reporters in announcing the move. The two neighbours exchanged over US$500 billion in bilateral goods and services trade in 2011, according to US statistics, and are - together with Canada - parties to the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

Aimed at deepening economic integration, the new agreement would involve annual meetings - beginning this autumn - of top cabinet members of each administration, including US Vice President Joe Biden.

"We have emphasised trade and commerce during this visit because we have made a thorough analysis of the US and Mexico trade relations - have analysed trade flows and how our economies complement each other," Peña Nieto said. "And there is potential if we truly want to become a more productive and more competitive North America region, well, that's what we need to do first to compete with other regions in the world."

ICTSD reporting.

Bolivia, Ecuador Advance in Efforts to Join Mercosur

Bolivia and Ecuador have moved forward in recent weeks in their efforts to formally join South American trade bloc Mercosur. The group currently counts Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela as full members, though Asunción's suspension remains in effect.

Bolivia has recently completed its presentation of the Mercosur incorporation protocol, paving the way for the parliaments of current members to start considering its membership for possible ratification. The news comes just months after President Evo Morales signed the accession document (See Bridges Weekly, 12 December 2012).

Meanwhile, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced earlier this week that his country plans to begin negotiating to become a member of the bloc. However, Correa has said that he hopes a region-to-region deal between Mercosur and the EU might be completed before Quito's membership talks are finalised. European officials have lately said that an EU-Mercosur deal could be done by early 2014.

"The strategy is to begin negotiations with Mercosur which will take eight to ten months and in that time we expect to have closed the trade agreement with the EU," Correa said, in comments reported by MercoPress.

ICTSD reporting; "EU confident trade accord with Mercosur will be signed at the beginning of 2014," MERCOPRESS, 6 May 2013; "Bolivia full incorporation to Mercosur now rests on legislative approval from other members," MERCOPRESS, 6 May 2013; "Ecuador planea iniciar negociaciones para unirse a Mercosur," WALL STREET JOURNAL AMERICAS, 6 May 2013.

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