With India evaluating pros and cons of joining the WTO's global procurement agreement (GPA), a senior official of the multilateral body said being a part of the pact would give New Delhi access to about $1.7 trillion procurement market.
Currently, India has an observer status in this plurilateral pact. The GPA, which is a legally binding agreement in the WTO, sets fair rules for public purchases. Members to the agreement open their markets only to fellow signatories—rather than to all WTO members.
Speaking at an Assocham function here, WTO Secretariat Deputy Director Harsha V Singh said WTO's GPA provides a guarantee of access to foreign procurement markets for goods and services.
"India is trying to see for itself how things are functioning. It is going through a detailed and intensive evaluation of the pros and cons of being a member," Singh said.
The observer status gives India an insight into how governments of developed countries place multi-billion procurement orders with the industry. But it does not mean that India is under an obligation to subject its approximately $125 billion government purchases to the WTO rules.
India has a big market in which foreign companies are willing to offer their goods and services. "By joining that agreement, you give signal to rest of the world of a willingness to give stability, predictability and creditability to the system which you have adopted. That becomes very important," he added.
Singh hoped India would reach some kind of conclusion after its own internal assessment and taking feedback from its stakeholders.
Referring to India's Public Procurement Bill, which was approved by the Cabinet, he said: "Since India is going to implement these principles (like good governance etc) through this legislation, becoming a member of the WTO's GPA would be a positive step in reforming the procurement regime, making it more open and transparent".
At present, 42 WTO members are signatories to GPA. Developed countries, most of which are members of GPA,
want India to sign the GPA under the WTO.