A Sustainability Toolkit for Trade Negotiators:

Trade and investment as vehicles for achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda

4.3 Government Procurement

Governments have a great deal of latitude in the exercise of procurement (that is, the purchase of goods and services not for commercial resale). As a result, they should be able to discriminate in favour of more sustainably produced goods or goods that have lower environmental footprints in their use and/or disposal.

The WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement establishes obligations for member governments (most WTO members are not signatories, and there are almost no developing country signatories), but these probably do not restrict the practice of sustainable government procurement; they are primarily concerned with ensuring that the tendering process, including award decisions, is conducted fairly and transparently.

Nonetheless, it may be valuable to include language in a RTIA’s government procurement chapter that decisively confirms the parties’ rights to engage in sustainable government procurement.

Option 1:Include language that confirms the parties’ right to discriminate in favour of sustainable goods and services in the process of procurement

Many governments spend more than 50 per cent of their budgets on procurement, so the market impact of “greening” those purchases can be significant—it can be a way to help new green sectors develop.


Technical specifications:

“For greater certainty, a Party, including its procuring entities, may, in accordance with this Article, prepare, adopt, or apply technical specifications to promote the conservation of natural resources or protect the environment.

When procuring entities lay down environmental characteristics in terms of performance or functional requirement, as referred to in [paragraph X], they may consider using the detailed specification or, if necessary, parts thereof, as defined by eco-labels existing within the [parties] provided that:

(a) those specifications are appropriate to define the characteristics of the supplies or services that are the object of the contract;

(b) the requirements of the label are drawn up on the basis of scientific information; and

(c) those specifications are accessible to all interested parties.”  (EU Singapore Free Trade Agreement, Chapter 10, Articles 10.9(6) and 10.9(7))

How Commonly Used

“For greater certainty, a procuring entity may prepare, adopt or apply technical specifications to promote the conservation of natural resources or protect the environment.” (Korea – Australia FTA, Article 12.8(6))

How Commonly Used


Award criteria:

“The evaluation criteria set out in the notice of intended procurement or in another notice used as a notice of intended procurement or tender documentation may include, among others, price and other cost factors, quality, technical merit, environmental characteristics, and terms of delivery.”  (EU Singapore Free Trade Agreement, Chapter 10, Article 10.9(11))

How Commonly Used

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