By Lizzy Okoji/Uche Bibilari
Abuja – The Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) Commission has urged member states to address the challenges of trade regulations within the West African sub-region in order to boost trade and integration among the countries.
Mr Tei Konzi, Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement, ECOWAS Commission made the call on Tuesday in Abuja at a two-day ECOWAS Forum for the establishment of National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs).
Konzi disclosed that within 5 years, trade within the sub-region had reduced to 10 per cent from 12 per cent.
He said that the reduction underscored the urgent need for member states to address the obstacles to trade growth.
He also noted that vibrant multilateral trade relations among member states could contribute significantly to creating employment and generating wealth as stipulated in article three of the ECOWAS Treaty.
“Trade plays an important role in creating employment and generating wealth.
“As a result, trade facilitation has been at the heart of our regional integration process, with the Protocols and Decisions on the Free Movement of Persons and Goods as the cornerstone of our economic integration.
“The overall objective of this 2-day inaugural forum is to update, share, and ultimately strengthen the National Trade Facilitation Committees, whilst engaging in the process of establishing the Regional Trade Facilitation Committee (RTFC), which is aimed at coordinating the implementation of the Word Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Trade Facility Agreement (TFA) at a regional level.
“Although TFA creates binding obligations and best endeavours solely on individual WTO members, regional approaches to implementing trade facilitation measures can deliver greater benefits to individual countries and the regional community than just disconnected national reforms.
“Coordinated port and cross-border reforms would help create a more consistent and predictable regional trading environment by avoiding the imposition of diverging administrative procedures and requirements in each member state.
“Harmonised formalities across regions would reduce business transaction costs, create the necessary condition for the development of regional value chains and be an important investment tool,” Konzi said.
Konzi added that at the end of the forum, the ECOWAS Commission hoped to receive the Validated Terms of Reference for RTFC, as well as the Status and Roadmap on issues/needs of NTFCs.
In his remarks, Mr Richard Adebayo, Nigeria’s Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment said that the forum was timely as bringing together representatives of member states would create an opportunity to discuss challenges and how best to address them.
According to Adebayo, who was represented by Mr Aliyu Abubakar, Deputy Director Trade of the Ministry, for Nigeria, trade facilitation is very important and key to achieving already set policy objectives.
He explained that the set objectives cut across achieving the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, the diversification of the economy as well as ensuring sustainable economic growth and development.
“We take trade facilitation seriously and in line with the preparation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement of the WTO, the government of Nigeria has established a National Trade Facilitation Committee with clear mandates.
“That committee has been working seriously to achieve all the policy goals that have been set including the national policy objective of improving the domestic environment as well as meeting our international commitments arising from the WTO TFA agreement.
“We believe that this forum is important for the sharing of ideas, to synergise and to cooperate so that we can collectively promote regional trade and regional integration.
“It will also help in achieving the African Continental free Trade Area (AFCFTA) that we have just signed on to”, Adebayo said.