Procurement: costs and benefits of regional integration processes in the context of free trade agreements


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The state is the largest purchaser of goods and services in the economy. The World Trade Organization (WTO) estimates its share from 10% to 15% of gross domestic product (GDP) worldwide. In developing countries, like those in Latin America and the Caribbean, the state is an indispensable player for the promotion of economic activity. In this context, public procurement are extremely important not only because of the magnitude of the resources involved, but for their ability to influence domestic enterprises, especially micro, small and medium enterprises, or MSMEs.

Traditional economic theory holds that the optimal use of resources obtained through procurement regimes open, transparent and non-discriminatory right to acquire more and better goods at the lowest possible cost. Therefore, over the past decades were promoting reforms of public procurement systems that tended to modernize, to incorporate a larger dose of transparency and technology, allowing knowledge and disseminate the different needs of the states to more companies.


The network had a gradual development process, beginning with its first meetings held since 2003 between the heads of national offices and with programs to modernize the process of government procurement in the Americas. Initially, a network of Inter-American E-Government Procurement was created in September 2004 and later, in June 2005, it became the Inter-American Network on Government Procurement (INGP) to expand the work themes and include other initiatives related to Government Procurement in the Americas.

The first meeting to show an interest in addressing the issue of Government Procurement in the hemisphere occurred during the “ First Inter-American Seminar on E-Government Procurement” convened by the Government of Lima, Peru in 2003, on behalf of the OAS Orlando Mason and Jorge Claro participated as expert consultants.

The first attempt to create a network was in September 2004 at a meeting convened by the OAS in Sao Paulo, Brazil where the idea of creating a network of E-Government Procurement arose. On that occasion 32 representatives from 15 countries attended, with the special presence of the Constitutional Vice President of El Salvador, Ana Vilma de Escobar Albanez.

On that occasion the “II International Seminar on Strategies and Cooperation in E-Government Procurement: Institutional Organization, SMEs, Trade and Development” took place, having as headquarters the Parlatino. During private meetings between government officials the idea to form a work network was agreed upon.

This initial work network was coordinated by one of the members who began acting as the first President of the community, assuming the representation of his peers to generate the early exchanges and explore possibilities for support. The first ad hoc president was Tomas Campero of Chile.

Among the first activities undertaken by the members of the network were the preparations of country profiles, online courses, coordination meetings for the countries of the Andean Community and Central America and a study on government procurement based on the context of regional integration.

The “III Inter-American Seminar on E-Government Procurement” was held in Santiago de Chile in June 2005, in this workshop representatives for the U.S joined the Network. Meanwhile, ties between all members continued to be strengthen.

Decisive steps towards the institutional strengthening of the Inter-American Network on Governmental Procurement

To continue the growth of the Network Tomas Campero was ratified as president and an executive committee created.

In the following months coordination meetings were continued in Central America and the Andean Community, which identified common areas of modernization in government procurement; in the case of Central America the investigation was a joint venture with foreign trade authorities and the Andean Community emphasizes the development of a document that compares the e-procurement strategies followed by these countries.

The First Conference of the Americas was held in Vancouver, Canada in 2004 and was sponsored by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and the Canadian Commercial Corporation; it was attended by some countries in the region, although it was not an activity organized within the Network.

This year we launched the first website of the Network due to a contribution from the Government of Chile to share the results of activities and have access to documents that were generated in all instances of the cooperation that was beginning to develop.

The next meeting of the Network took place in the context of the Second Annual Conference on Government Procurement of the Americas “in Atlanta in 2005.

The meeting was attended by 50 senior officials of government procurement from 20 countries in the Americas, as well as more than 500 professionals from the public, private and academic sectors in the U.S., and representatives of CARICOM, the Andean Community and the OAS.

A common working agenda was consolidated for the region in relation to government procurement and working groups were created to advance technical cooperation. This conference was a practical first example of what would be the future of annual meetings due to its technical quality and wide appeal.

Since then, we began the development of a very intense work agenda that highlights the five regional workshops in each of the working groups formed in Atlanta and international seminars. At each meeting a consensus was reached on the main points of common interest to advance the modernization of procurement systems.

The emergence of leadership and the strengthening of cooperation between countries were noted. The community showed increasing synergy between the different countries and members.

The results of this work were reviewed during the “Third Annual Government Procurement Conference of the Americas” held in 2006 in Lima, Peru. In the months following Orlando Mason retires from the OAS but leaves a consolidated Network as a lead agency with an important position in the region in the area of government procurement.

The 2007 was a year of transition. No meetings were convened by the OAS but representatives of member countries had the opportunity to participate in two international seminars organized by the Government of Paraguay. In this way a continuation of the meetings was provided, in which a way to work was consolidated from a shared vision.

The activity of the network community resumed in January 2008 with the “Fourth Annual Government Procurement Conference of the Americas”, organized with the support of the IDB in Panama City, Panama. This was another important step towards the institutionalization of the Network and its future professional and financial support organizations.

In the meeting in Panama 35 representatives from 21 countries of the Americas attended and representatives of the IDB and IDRC formally joined the Executive Committee. At this meeting Miguel Porrúa, who joins the Network, represented the OAS. In this way, we move from ad hoc operation to increasingly more institutionalized, without losing force. See Minutes of the Meeting.

The following undertaken activities include a regional coordination meeting of Caribbean countries to incorporate them into the Network, the launch of a new website and the first seminar-workshop on sustainable procurement organized in conjunction with the SICA of Central American and UNEP, as well as a coordination meeting of the Central American countries to resume common agenda.

Since 2009 the following INGP Annual Conferences have been carried out:

  • 5th Annual INGP Conference in Mexico City, Mexico. 2009.
  • 6th Annual INGP Conference, in the City of Lima Peru. 2010
  • 7th Annual INGP Conference, in the city of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. 2011.
  • 8th Annual INGP Conference in Panama City, Panama. 2012.

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