The agreement allows Britain to retain its place among the 47 WTO countries that are involved in the Government Procurement Agreement. The EU's 28 member nations belong as a single entity, so the bidding agreement's participating countries signed off on allowing Britain to join as an independent party to the pact.
The arrangement ensures continuity of cross-border bidding for big-ticket government contracts, though military contracts are generally excluded. A Geneva-based trade official said on condition of anonymity because he's not authorized to be named publicly said that the agreement was a relatively straightforward step but an important one in ensuring access to a combined market valued at over $1.7 trillion. Britain still faces unresolved issues when it comes to access for its goods and services markets after its planned exit from the European Union on March 29.
The deal comes a day after some countries, led by New Zealand, aired complaints about how tariff-rate quotas will be set by Britain and the European Union if they don't reach a Brexit deal by the planned departure date.
Under the WTO's tariff-rate quota system, agricultural products that are imported under a set quota receive lower duty rates. Some trading want the European Union to maintain its current quotas, and hope Britain will establish its own quotas — in essence expanding the total market.
The EU and Britain plan to split those quotas up based on Britain's past share of overall EU imports, the official said.