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Forum discusses ECOWAS Common External tariff

Apr 5, 2011, 1:56 PM | Article By: Abdoulie Nyockeh

Stakeholders are currently gathered at the Jerma Beach Hotel discussing, among others, the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) and considering the requests from member states, and to continue with the negotiations on the re-categorisation of products.

This 10th ECOWAS/UEMOA committee meeting for the management of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff brought together stakeholders to discuss the CET, which seeks to harmonize the payment of import duties in the sub-region.

The harmonization would check and discourage smuggling by traders and importers, since the system would ensure uniformity in the payment of import duties in all member countries of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Alhaji Mohammed B. Daramy, ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Customs, Industry and Mines, Tourism and Free Movement described the common External Tariff as an important step in the march towards achieving a common market in West Africa.

According to him, it 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 a free trade area in our economic integration agenda.

"However, effective regional integration follows the sequence: a free trade area, customs union, common market and monetary union," he said.

Commissioner Daramy noted that it was, therefore, in the spirit of giving expression to one of the major objectives for the creation of ECOWAS that, in January 2006, the Authority of heads of state and government at its twenty ninth session adopted the CET.

Noting that substantial ground has been covered, he called on the committee to work harder to ensure that the primary objective for its establishment is achieved in a timely manner.

In her opening remarks, on behalf of the minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment, the permanent secretary Ms Naffie Barry commended the committee for their relentless and untiring effort  invested since its inception, noting that the task that lies ahead will be confronted head-on so as to achieve the objectives set for the meeting.

According to PS Barry, the new vision which seeks to move ECOWAS from an ECOWAS of states to an ECOWAS of people required the integration and full participation of civil society groups and stakeholders and, most importantly, trade systems.

She stated that the ECOWAS-CET together with the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme would serve as benchmarks to expedite the process of regional integration.

"The importance of regional integration cannot be over-emphasized as its benefits have a trickledown effect on the socio-economic development of the sub-region," PS Barry added.

She further told stakeholders 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 a proper development of the ECOWAS-CET and the proper implementation of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme.