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Banjul hosts ECOWAS trade negotiation seminar

Apr 1, 2015, 4:57 PM | Article By: Abdoulie Nyockeh

The Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment, in collaboration with the ECOWAS Trade Negotiation capacity-building project, Tuesday commenced a two-day seminar on the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.

The main objective of the trade facilitation seminar is to facilitate the categorization of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) provisions and provide notification recommendations for consideration by the Gambian government.

The convergence targeted the inter-institutional committee in The Gambia under the ECOWAS Trade Negotiation capacity building ECOWAS-TNCB Project.

The participants were drawn from the Gambia Immigration Department, GRA, GPA, GCCI, GPF, Ministry of Interior, DLS, WTO, MOTIE and PSU, among others.

Delivering a speech at the seminar, Kolawole Sofola, TNCB-Project coordinator at ECOWAS Commission, expressed delight at the participation of the members of the national trade decision-making committee, inter-institutional committee on trade to dialogue among key stakeholders on trade policy formulation and implementation in The Gambia.

Mr Sofola said the ECOWAS trade negotiation capacity-building TNCB  project, funded by the ECOWAS and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), was set up to build the negotiations capacity of member states to enable them to benefit from their participation in the international trading system.

He said a one-day meeting of the IIC, which would review the functioning of the inter-institutional committee IIC, and assess its future needs, would follow the two-day seminar.

This would provide the participants an opportunity to learn from the experience of inter-institutional committee of The Gambia and share lessons from other committees, he said.

He further thanked their partners, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency for their financial support over the first two phases, and called on them to continue to build on the achievements of the project by partnering with the project in phase 3.

According to Mr Sofola, the ECOWAS Commission through the TNCB project remained committed to partnering with The Gambia in building its capacity on trade policy formulation, negotiation and implementation in order to ensure that the people of the country could use trade as a tool for economic development and poverty reduction.

Opening the seminar, the deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, Fatim Njie, on behalf of the Gambia government and Trade ministry, thanked the ECOWAS Commission for providing through the Swedish government the technical support that enabled them to conduct the seminar.

She said the two-day seminar was held on the backdrop of the recently-agreed WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement to assist The Gambia categorize its commitment into A, B and C for notification recommendation under the agreement.

The trade facilitation agreement contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit, she said. 

It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues, she added.

Regarding the IIC meeting, DPS Njie said the meeting, which would take place on 2 April 2015, would discuss the ways and means of ECOWAS support for the improvement of the work of the committee.

It is hoped that both the workshop and the meeting would help them improve as technicians, in formulating and implementing trade policies and measures, in a way that is consistent with national and regional development aspirations, she continued.

“The workshop is an opportunity for us to review the report of the needs assessments conducted under the agreement, as well as to enhance the participants’ understanding of national obligation for the implementation of the TFA.”

According to DPS Njie, the ministry of Trade has a central role in ensuring that trade is facilitated at all times, which is evident in the ministry’s policies, measures, strategies and approaches in the consultation of stakeholders at anytime on any trade decision.

She urged the participants to pay attention to category C, which would require them to identify the kind of technical assistance and capacity building needed to enable them implement the specific articles in the agreement.