“Buy Local / National” Moves In Public Procurement Could Lead To Dangerous Protectionist Behaviour

We wrote last week about the forces around the world that seem to be moving governments and nations towards a more protectionist attitude to trade and also to government procurement. This is being seen in Europe, Australia, the US, India and various African nations too. At its extreme, it sees government procurement expenditure primarily as a tool to support “local” or national interests and suppliers.

As this movement continues, we are seeing little written in defence of free trade, open access to markets, and the benefits of a public procurement approach that puts other factors – such as value – at the heart of the activity. So we thought it was worth re-stating the negatives around a protectionist approach to procurement, and some of the benefits of openness.

Corbyn & Labour – Using Public Procurement To Achieve Political and Social Goals

We started writing this article a few days ago, before the election announcement … it is perhaps even more relevant now!

So, our challenge for today is this. How do we start an article “Jeremy Corbyn made a speech recently” and retain our readers beyond that first sentence?

For our non-UK readers, Corbyn leads the Labour Party, which should be the main opposition party to the ruling Conservatives but under his stewardship has sunk in the opinion polls and is getting to the point where its actual survival is at risk. He is an old school socialist, of the sort we don’t see very often even in the Labour Party these days. Beyond that, there have been suggestions that on top of this political philosophy not appealing to many voters, there are issues with his basic intellect, leadership skills and judgement.

Nationalism on the Rise – Need To Keep an Eye on Public Procurement

As Donald Trump continues to delight, astound and horrify the world – all depending on your outlook – it seems likely that we are moving into a world of greater nationalism in terms of both politics and economics. Trump appears to see international trade as much more of a contest than an opportunity for win:win outcomes. He feels that countries like China and Mexico have gained more from the US than vice versa, and maybe he is right.

Other countries will no doubt respond though if he does take action, and then we have the risk of  falling into a trade war that ultimately won’t benefit anyone. Trump does not explain how slapping an import tax on to goods coming into the US is going to help the lower income families in his country who will be faced by higher prices – not all factories can instantly re-locate to Texas.

Closer to home, in the UK, the recent Building Our Industrial Strategy “Green Paper” from the government contained a few good ideas and worthwhile suggestions. But the section on public procurement also contained some slightly disturbing comments. It starts well – it is hard to argue with this.

“This means creating the right conditions to put UK supply chains in the strongest possible position to compete for contracts on the basis of best value for the taxpayer”.

But it is the use of the “balanced scorecard” that raises some alarm bells.

This Week’s News from the Public Procurement Cafe

Webinar – ICLEI’s  initiatives, activities and achievements in the field of sustainable and innovation procurement

Hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme Division of Technology, Industry and
Economics, Cities and Lifestyles Unit, this webinar on September 13 is co-organised with ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI). The webinar presents the initiatives, activities and achievements of ICLEI in the field of sustainable and innovation procurement.

Human Rights and Public Procurement – International Learning Lab Hits Its Stride

The International Learning Lab on Public Procurement and Human Rights was launched last year and is co-organised by the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR), the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR), the Harrison Institute at Georgetown Law, the Public Procurement Research Group of Nottingham University, and several other people and organisations, including our friend Andy Davies of the London Universities Purchasing Consortium.

This is a hot topic in public procurement, and only likely to get hotter, we suspect. Stories about conditions in electronics and garment factories for instance have hit the national press. Citizens and taxpayers are rightly horrified to think that ‘their’ money, being spent by contracting authorities via public procurement, may be helping support human rights abuses in those and other areas.

So the Learning Lab aims to be a platform and mechanism for:

–  experience-sharing among procurement actors on approaches to integrating respect for human rights;

–  generating knowledge about public procurement law and policy and human rights;

–  producing and disseminating tools and guidance to build capacity to integrate human rights issues among procurement professionals; and

–  promoting coherence between procurement and human rights in international and regional frameworks and initiatives.