Thursday, April 7, 2011

FREE TRADE: West Africa Moves Slowly For Decades

The 10th meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS/UNMOA) and the Committee for the Management of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) are jointly holding a five-day Meeting from 4th to 8th April, 2011 at Jerma Beach Hotel. 
 According to organisers of the meeting, the 10th of its kind is organised by ECOWAS and is meant to give member states the opportunity to review and make conclusions on the common external tariff in the sub-region.
 ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade Alhaji Mohammed B. Daramy said that the meeting is in accordance with Article 3 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty; the community shall work towards the achievement of integration in the region by establishing a common market through trade liberalization and the adoption of common external tariffs.
This Article, she maintained is an important step in the march towards achieving a common market in West Africa, while challenging the committee to work harder in ensuring that the primary objective for its establishment is achieved. 
  He adds: “Its is a disturbing fact that since the creation of ECOWAS over 30  years ago, West Africa as a regional economic community has only moved one step to the level of free trade in our economic integration.”
However, effective and efficient regional integration follows the following sequence: a free trade area, custom union, common market and monetary union.
He continued, “it was therefore in the sprite of living expression to one of the major objectives for the creation of the ECOWAS that in January 2006, the Authority of Heads of States and governments at its twenty ninth session adopted the Common External Tariff FOR WEST Africa.”
According to Daramy, in that same sprit, and along with the adaptation of the Common External Tariff, the Authority of Heads of State and government also approved the establishment of the joint ECOWAS/UEMOA Committee to manage the ECOWAS Common External Tariff, he recalled.
 In conclusion, he thanked the government of The Gambia for hosting the meeting, while expressing his profound gratitude to the President, the government and people of The Gambia for the warm reception accorded all delegations since their arrival in Banjul.
  Permanent Secretary Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment, Naffie Barry gave the opening remarks saying that the high level meeting would significantly contribute towards the conclusion of the CET process in the region.
 She then recognised the relentless and untiring efforts being invested by members of the ECOWAS Tariff adding that the project for a common market for the region should not lose its momentum and prominence, and this can only be sustainable within the framework of proper development of the ECOWAS-CET and the proper implementation of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS).
PS Barry said the future common market has a potential that is not fully exploited and this is only possible with a free movement of goods and services and people within the sub-region, while stressing that ECOWAS member states should open up their markets irrespective of economic, social and language barriers, she positioned.
She says at a time when negotiations between the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) are stalled on Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), stating that conclusion on the EPA would greatly depend the finalization of the ECOWAS-CET. 
She stressed that, the ECOWAS has made a commitment on the EPA which must seek more engagement with other key economic players particularly the EU, all members states must remain focused on the EPA’s so as to synergies their position for common purpose, she said.

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