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For public procurement, the pendulum of trade policy seems to be swinging back towards protectionism. Governments can have a profoundly important impact on their home economies when they raise barriers to foreign competition. Recent protectionist efforts by major economic powers, including the United States and the European Union, suggest a new world order—of new import and export barriers, tight technology controls and “friend-shoring” to limit public procurement trade to a closed circle of aligned nations. Will this be the new economic order in public procurement? This article, originally published in Concurrences Review,, argues not. Open international trade in procurement was not an historical accident or a quixotic adventure; instead, the current legal order reflects the economics of globalization and geopolitical realities. At the same time, the question of a new kind of protectionism in public procurement is being raised by novel public policies, such as goals for “sustainability” (social, economic and environmental advancement), played out through public procurement, which can in practice be quite protectionist. Drawing in part on long U.S. experience with accommodating social and economic goals in public procurement, this piece argues that the apparently contradictory goals of competition and sustainability can, in fact, be reconciled. In this respect, and without becoming a mere pawn of protectionism, public procurement law can provide viable solutions for reconciling competition with the new demands of sustainability.

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