The ASEM TFAP Seminar on Government Procurement and IT was held on 23 March 2001 in Tokyo with the participation of representatives from most of the ASEM partners. It was chaired by Deputy Director-General Kojiro Shiojiri of the Economic Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

It was the second seminar under the framework of the Trade Facilitation Action Plan (TFAP) for Government Procurement, aiming at contributing to the achievement of the majority of TFAP concrete goals for 2000-2002, following-up on the results of the first seminar that took place in Germany in September 1999.

There were eight presentations by six ASEM countries, focused mainly on the current status of the transition to e-procurement, followed by discussions amongst the participants.

All presentations drew attention to the need to make government procurement more efficient, transparent and user-friendly, with some members reporting on legislation that had already been implemented or was under consideration.

The participants emphasized the opportunities offered by information technology (IT). The main points raised during the seminar in relation to “e-procurement” were as follows:

  1. IT offers an effective means to provide enriched information on government procurement to suppliers and reduce costs for both governments and bidders.
  2. All levels of government can benefit from the utilization of e-procurement.
  3. Standardization of e-procurement practices within individual countries under “one roof” is important in reducing overlapping procurement procedures.
  4. Continuing pilot projects are needed to ensure necessary system requirements (such as bidder identification, time stamping, and confidentiality of bid-price).
  5. Further consideration should be given to contingency plans in the e-procurement process.
  6. Small and medium enterprises should not be excluded from government procurement on account of any deficiency in IT capability. Even after introduction of e-procurement, bids should still be accepted in the conventional manner when appropriate.
  7. Reverse auctions can be an effective means to reduce spending; however, it is important to recognize the risks inherent in the reverse auction process. Concerns were raised that the cheapest bid is not necessarily always the best. Consideration should be paid to open domestic procurement markets to foreign bidders to promote competition and transparency.
  8. International harmonization in electronic authentication is necessary to make global electronic tendering feasible.