Give small firms major backing

THE Forum of Private Business (FPB) is pressing the Government and the UK s EU Commissioner Peter Mandelson to opt-out from a World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement forbiding the favouring of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the procurement p

THE Forum of Private Business (FPB) is pressing the Government and the UK's EU Commissioner Peter Mandelson to opt-out from a World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement forbiding the favouring of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the procurement process.

Canada, Japan, South Korea and the United States have had an opt-out from the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA), since 1981.

Speaking in Strasbourg, the FPB's European spokesman, Martin Smith, said a quota of Government contracts in the UK should be set aside for smaller firms."

In the EU, trade Commissioner Mandelson, would have to negotiate this. The deadline for any proposal to revise the agreement is this month, otherwise the agreement stays in its current form for 10 years.


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Tory MEP Syed Kamall, of the European Parliament's Committee on Trade, has sent a written question to Mr Mandelson. "Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the backbone of our economy, yet the Government shuts them out of a potentially lucrative market." he said.

"Even if this Labour Government is not serious about opening this marketplace to small businesses, it is still important we get an exemption from WTO rules so that future Governments can take action," he added.

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Tory leader, David Cameron MP, speaking at FPB's Small Firms' summit last week, pledged to set aside 25 per cent of Government contracts for SMEs if elected, but Mr Smith has warned that such a pledge may be futile unless the opt-out is in place.

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