Document Type


Publication Date





Some of the most difficult issues in U.S. procurement law stem from the nation’s several centuries of accumulated protectionist measures, and from a patchwork of trade agreements meant to contain that protectionism. These conflicting measures reflect a push-and-pull in U.S. procurement policy, between those who favor closed procurement markets and those who favor open competition; the compromises reached between the two camps have created a Byzantine set of rules and requirements. At the same time, though, this area of law holds a special promise for the future of procurement, for cross-border agreements currently offer the readiest means of erasing anti-competitive differences between national rules, by bringing many nations to a common standard of international best practice. To make sense of this complex area, this chapter proceeds in three parts. Part II reviews the major pieces of protectionist legislation passed by Congress, focusing first on the Buy American Act of 1933; this discussion also references some of the most important implementing regulations. Part III reviews the most important U.S. trade agreements which have limited the force of that protectionist legislation, including the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA). Because barriers to procurement can also arise from structural factors -- “non-tariff barriers to trade” which, in practice, may protect domestic vendors -- this part also explains how the trade agreements mitigate those non-tariff barriers. Finally, Part IV concludes by offering some practical suggestions for those working in this field, and suggests a possible road ahead for cooperation in international procurement markets. This is a draft of Chapter 9 to The Contractor’s Guide to International Procurement (American Bar Association 2018) (Erin Loraine Felix & Marques Peterson, eds.), published through the ABA Public Contract Law Section and available at

GW Paper Series

GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2019-55; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2019-55

Included in

Law Commons