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New Zealand procurement on the world stage

NZGP’s Director of International Procurement & Trade Karen English outlines the importance of NZGP’s international role.

Imagine how you would approach procurement if you were obliged to buy only from New Zealand businesses. Would you be able to get what you need? Would your choices be severely constrained?

Now, imagine that you were a business in New Zealand and the only government that you could sell to was the New Zealand government. How long would you be able to stay in business if you didn’t have the opportunity to sell to governments in other countries? Would it help you to run your business if government buyers in different countries conducted their procurement in broadly similar ways?

There is, of course, no single or simple answer to this, but NZGP has an important role in advancing New Zealand’s government procurement interests through international engagements and trade-related activities.

These activities and connections enable us to influence international best practice and ensure that New Zealand business has access to government contracting opportunities offshore.

Shaping international procurement policy and practice

We are an active member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Leading Public Procurement Practitioners group (LPP).

Participation in the LPP enables us to shape and influence government procurement policy and practice. It gives us the opportunity to learn what other OECD countries are doing, showcase New Zealand’s approach and build international networks for sharing information on government procurement.

In short, we get a global view of leading procurement practice which we can use to benchmark ourselves against.

Over the last three years, we have had a secondee to the OECD in Paris. While a terrific opportunity for the individuals involved, each has come back to NZGP with a new understanding of practices in other countries and ideas for changes we could make in New Zealand, as well as “what’s trending” in government procurement globally.

For example, NZGP’s work on an e-procurement strategy and digitising procurement processes had its genesis and is informed by OECD work. Right now, the OECD is discussing responsible business conduct in government procurement – a topic of interest everywhere, including New Zealand.

Negotiating trade agreements

Trade is an important element of New Zealand’s economic prosperity and trade in government procurement markets is part of that narrative.

Governments procure a wide range of goods and services. Selling to government markets — domestic and foreign — provides opportunities for New Zealand’s niche businesses and are an avenue for greater diversification of New Zealand’s economy.

Notwithstanding a rising tide of protectionism and turbulent times around the world, we still want to be sure that New Zealand businesses have the right to bid for as many government contracts as possible. It’s been said, we won’t get rich selling to ourselves!

The work NZGP does in supporting MFAT with its free trade negotiations ensures that our businesses have the guaranteed right to bid for government contracts. Many governments have preferences for local suppliers or simply do not allow bidders from other countries. The government procurement commitments in free trade agreements ensure our business can compete on a level playing field.

Commitments in trade agreements are typically made on a reciprocal basis. Where we gain rights for our businesses to bid, we are obliged to allow businesses from free trade partner countries to bid for our government contracts. Being open to competition is a critical part of a healthy market in New Zealand.