Pacific trade deal could mean more work for federal CIOs

Shutterstock image. Credit: chombosan

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, years in the making, includes a little bit of everything -- including deals on government procurement. The TPP might mean more access to foreign IT goods and services for federal procurement officers down the road, according to trade experts, but it could also mean more due diligence work.

In early November, the Obama administration made public the lengthy full text of the TPP after five years of closed-door negotiations. The agreement looks to unify trade among a dozen Pacific Rim countries, eliminate tariffs and open up markets. It must be approved by Congress, and .votes are expected in 2016.

Although experts are still sifting through the 30-chapter, 6,000-page document, it clearly contains some provisions that federal procurement officials should keep in mind as the ratification debate rolls forward.

International trade expert Christopher Yukins, a research professor in government procurement law and co-director of the George Washington University Law School's government procurement law program, told FCW that if the agreement is approved, federal procurement managers would have to keep details in mind when procuring foreign IT.

"It's another step in the maturation of the federal procurement system to accommodate international trade," he said.

That accommodation could include a re-thinking of some basic federal contracting practices, Yukins said. For instance, the Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts that agencies often use to procure services might have to be adjusted. CIOs, he said, may have to craft IDIQs, which are basic services contracts that set minimum and maximum quantity limits, in more sophisticated ways to use them for foreign purchases.

Cybersecurity is another area that CIOs should keep in mind, he said. It's unclear how the cyber protections built into current domestically-sourced contracts would transfer to potential foreign sources. According to Yukins, assurances provided by foreign suppliers may not match exactly with federal rules.

"When you allow foreign companies to come into reverse auctions, how would you get decent [cyber protection] requirements?" he wondered.

Although industry is still wading through the treaty's text, some leaders  cautiously welcomed it.

"For the first time in a trade agreement, there are provisions that prohibit restrictions on cross border data flows and local data storage, permit companies and individuals to use their choice of cybersecurity and encryption tools, and ensure the protection and enforcement of trade secrets." said Dean Garfield, president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council in a Nov. 5 statement.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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