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West Africa Need to Unlock its agriculture and industrial potential

West Africa Need to Unlock its agriculture and industrial potential

By Al-Varney Rogers

Monrovia — Deputy Commerce Minister for Trade Steve Marvie says intra-regional trade is needed to unlock the huge agriculture and industrial potential in West Africa.

"Intra-regional trade is what we need to unlock huge agriculture and industrial potential in the region. Our industrialization efforts could thus be based on structured network of infrastructures, especially in the energy and transport sectors, and convergence and institutions," Mr. Marvie said.

The Commerce Minister for Trade said ECOWAS trade liberalization scheme (ETLS) presents opportunities for Liberia's industries, companies and the private sector at large. "The rational underpinning the ETLS is to promote regional trade transactions using regional modalities," Marvie said.

The ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) is the main ECOWAS operational tool for promoting the West Africa region as a Free Trade Area. The Scheme has undergone a series of transformation in respect of the categories of goods that are covered.The first category was defined when the scheme first came into existence in 1979. At that time, agreement was reached on only agricultural, artisanal handicrafts and unprocessed products to benefit from the scheme. Following this, in 1990, further agreement was reached and industrial products could be approved to take part in the scheme.

Marvie said, Liberia's trade with the Mano River Union and the ECOWAS region is grossly estimated at approximately 5 and 10 percent respectively. Marvie says he's please that Liberia has finally joined other member states to implement the ETLS which will facilitate regional trade.

"I'm pleased that Liberia has finally joined other ECOWAS member states to implement the ETLS which will now facilitate the regional trade we have advocated for as region."

Marvie added the mix of trade flows and culture have shaped the image of the region "beyond borders and aspirations" in moving towards integration. "Integration and trade in West Africa are well documented in our history as a region." "West Africa has always been crossed by trade flows of goods and services between nations," He added.

With the advent of the Common External Tariff (CET) Marvie said Liberia is again showing to the rest of the world that the future is regional trade. "The CET is the basis of the goods (tariff) offer presented by Liberia at the World Trade Organization."

The Common External Tariff is one of the instruments of harmonising ECOWAS Member States and strengthening its Common Market. Article 3 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty defines the aims of the community as promoting “co-operation and integration, leading to the establishment of an economic union in West Africa ….” In order to achieve this, the community is to ensure, in stages, among other means, the establishment of a common market through “the adoption of a common external tariff and a common trade policy vis-à-vis third countries…” 1 To this end, the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government established an ECOWAS Customs’ Union. A common external tariff with a common nomenclature so that customs procedures are transparent, readily followed and delays at borders decreased, is a key stone in achieving this union.

"We must thank ECOWAS for the level of support given Liberia to train our technicians and policy makers on specific provisions of the ETLS and CET to ensure that decision makers understand the key aspects of the regional instrument meant to promote regional trade integration and development."

The Trade Minister said the implementation of the ETLS will remove countless non-tariff barriers-checkpoints within and at borders. "We must stress that as we build the capacity of the National Approval Committee and the private sector to ensure effective implementation of the ETLS, the challenges presented in this by the countless non-tariff barriers- checkpoints within and at border, duplication of customs, trade and regulatory processes and procedures, ambiguous regulatory practices," Marvie added.

Marvie said continue constructive engagements and customs for a will remind policy makers of the need to tackle trade challenges and facilitate it as indicated in the WTO trade facilitation agreement.

"In line with Liberia's Accession plan, today's initiative builds on the work of the government's effort to support Liberia's domestic private sector and expand market opportunities for operators as we seek to improve the overall doing business climate."

Minister Marvie spoke at the ECOWAS trade liberalization scheme (ETLS) and the common external tariff (CET) training which was launched in Monrovia.
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