Information about the organization

Plurilaterals: of minority interest

For the most part, all WTO members subscribe to all WTO agreements. After the Uruguay Round, however, there remained four agreements, originally negotiated in the Tokyo Round, which had a narrower group of signatories and are known as “plurilateral agreements”. All other Tokyo Round agreements became multilateral obligations (i.e. obligations for all WTO members) when the World Trade Organization was established in 1995. The four were:

trade in civil aircraft
government procurement
dairy products
bovine meat.

The bovine meat and dairy agreements were terminated in 1997.

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More introductory information
The WTO in Brief
10 benefits
10 misunderstandings

Fair trade in civil aircraft back to top

The Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft entered into force on 1 January 1980. It now has 30 signatories. The agreement eliminates import duties on all aircraft, other than military aircraft, as well as on all other products covered by the agreement — civil aircraft engines and their parts and components, all components and sub-assemblies of civil aircraft, and flight simulators and their parts and components. It contains disciplines on government-directed procurement of civil aircraft and inducements to purchase, as well as on government financial support for the civil aircraft sector.

more on civil aircraft


Government procurement: opening up for competition back to top

In most countries the government, and the agencies it controls, are together the biggest purchasers of goods of all kinds, ranging from basic commodities to high-technology equipment. At the same time, the political pressure to favour domestic suppliers over their foreign competitors can be very strong.

An Agreement on Government Procurement was first negotiated during the Tokyo Round and entered into force on 1 January 1981. Its purpose is to open up as much of this business as possible to international competition. It is designed to make laws, regulations, procedures and practices regarding government procurement more transparent and to ensure they do not protect domestic products or suppliers, or discriminate against foreign products or suppliers.

The agreement has 28 members. It has two elements — general rules and obligations, and schedules of national entities in each member country whose procurement is subject to the agreement. A large part of the general rules and obligations concern tendering procedures.

The present agreement and commitments were negotiated in the Uruguay Round. These negotiations achieved a 10-fold expansion of coverage, extending international competition to include national and local government entities whose collective purchases are worth several hundred billion dollars each year. The new agreement also extends coverage to services (including construction services), procurement at the sub-central level (for example, states, provinces, departments and prefectures), and procurement by public utilities. The new agreement took effect on 1 January 1996.

It also reinforces rules guaranteeing fair and non-discriminatory conditions of international competition. For example, governments will be required to put in place domestic procedures by which aggrieved private bidders can challenge procurement decisions and obtain redress in the event such decisions were made inconsistently with the rules of the agreement.

The agreement applies to contracts worth more than specified threshold values. For central government purchases of goods and services, the threshold is SDR 130,000 (some $185,000 in June 2003). For purchases of goods and services by sub-central government entities the threshold varies but is generally in the region of SDR 200,000. For utilities, thresholds for goods and services is generally in the area of SDR 400,000 and for construction contracts, in general the threshold value is SDR 5,000,000.

more on government procurement


Dairy and bovine meat agreements: ended in 1997 back to top

The International Dairy Agreement and International Bovine Meat Agreement were scrapped at the end of 1997. Countries that had signed the agreements decided that the sectors were better handled under the Agriculture and Sanitary and Phytosanitary agreements. Some aspects of their work had been handicapped by the small number of signatories. For example, some major exporters of dairy products did not sign the Dairy Agreement, and the attempt to cooperate on minimum prices therefore failed — minimum pricing was suspended in 1995.

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