ECOWAS To Institute Common External Tariff

Dr Toga McIntoshMember countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), have committed themselves to operationalising a Common External Tariff (CET) by January 1, 2015.

Additionally, the sub-regional group has pledged to work hard to facilitate the movement of goods and services across borders of member states to give meaning to the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) introduced in 1979.

Mr. Felix Kwakye, Customs Specialist at the ECOWAS Commission, who said these at the ongoing ECOWAS Trade Fair in Accra yesterday, added that the interventions were meant to deepen regional integration as well as promote the growth of industries to stimulate economic growth within the community.

He, explained that whereas the ETLS was designed to ensure free flow of goods and services within the community with less custom barriers, the CET, on the other hand, was directed at creating a unified tariff regime against imported goods from outside the community.
Mr. Kwakye said both interventions have become useful to enhance free intra-trade regime to give meaning to the treaty which established ECOWAS.

He said the treaty which established the ECOWAS, 38 years ago, envisaged a common market through trade liberalisation and the abolishment of custom duties to enhance trade within the community.

Mr. Kwakye explained that the ETLS was introduced in 1979 to allow free movement of raw materials and artifacts across borders of member countries but subsequently, evolved to cover finished products in 2000.

The Customs Specialist said the challenge encountered since the implementation of the ETLS, had to do with the determination of the source of the products to make sure they were really manufactured within the geographic area of ECOWAS to enjoy the benefit from ETLS.

He said to determine the origin of products, a National Approval Committee was established in each member state to authenticate the source of products before forwarding the certification to the ECOWAS Commission which would then wire the information to member states to serve as a guide in the implementation of the ELTS.

Mr Kwakye said a taskforce had also been formed to monitor and remove all bottlenecks which hinder the growth of the ELTS.
He said the taskforce has been charged to conduct an annual evaluation on the ELTS to identify challenges, progress and the way forward in the implementation.

Touching on the CET, Mr. Kwakye said the ECOWAS leaders in 2006 laid an important milestone to give meaning to free trade within the community with the introduction of CET to unify custom charged among member states.

He said in as much as CET was being implemented to boost trade and industry, measures have also been put in place to ensure that industrial competitiveness was not being sacrificed and also subsidised goods were not allowed to flood the ECOWAS market.

Mr Kwakye said stakeholders in the community would be taken through capacity building sensitisation programmes and awareness creation next year, to ensure that there was clear understanding of issues with regards to CET before its implementation in 2015.  By Lawrence Markwei

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