The European Union has urged ECOWAS member states to develop an effective mechanism for the compliance of the sub-region’s Common External Tariff (CET).The head of delegation of the EU to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr. Michel Arrion, made the call at the opening of the 11th annual ECOWAS-Development Partners Coordination meeting in Abuja on Monday.
The CET which came into force in January 2015 is expected to foster a common market and remove trade obstacles to the free movement of persons and goods within West African countries.
Arrion, however, pointed out that both legal and illegal non-tariff barriers to trade still existed within the sub-region.
He said that the challenges to free movement of persons, goods and services and rights of establishment hindered the achievement of a common market in West Africa.
“Eight countries have applied the CET, formally applying is one thing and another one is applying it correctly and consistently across the different countries he added.
He said ECOWAS needs to also ensure the remaining member states overcome the technical challenges hindering the implementation of the CET by all member states.
“With the CET, the opportunity exists to develop intra country value chains which could attract foreign investment, promote transfer of technology and create jobs, he said.
The EU Ambassador also explained that the EU-ECOWAS Economic Partnership Agreement which had been signed by “a large number of member states would build on the effectiveness of the CET.
Meanwhile, the Graphic Online news site reported that the Minister of Finance of Ghana, Mr Seth Terkper, has stated that the failure of the Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to achieve its objectives of economic integration was due to the stringent cross-border barriers of member countries.
In his presentation of the 2016 budget statement to Parliament on November 13, the finance minister called for the removal of trade bottlenecks that were impeding the implementation of the ECOWAS trade protocols.
“While some progress has been made in reducing tariffs, they have not been fully eliminated. Progress towards removing non-tariff barriers such as seasonal import and export bans has been slower. The failure to implement the instruments on the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) is affecting economic growth in the sub-region”, he said.
The ETLS initiative was expected to provide impetus to the process of economic integration and development in the West African sub-region and provide easier access to markets in other ECOWAS-member countries.
It also sought to encourage local manufacturing outfits to compete favourably with cheap imported products and nurture entrepreneurial development through the provision of preferential treatment in specific areas among member states.
Mr Terkper, however, explained that in spite of the regional backing and benefits that accrue to member countries, its objectives, to a large extent, had not been achieved as both tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade between member states still persisted.
Ghana under ETLS
The minister explained that Ghana’s export to the sub-region, under the ETLS, had seen a steady increase over the years and offered Ghanaian export manufacturers the opportunity to expand their market share in the community.
“For example, the number of ECOWAS certificates of origin issued increased from a little over 3,000 in 2012 to 4,286 in 2013 and 5,951 in 2014. Trade between Ghana and Nigeria has improved over the period. Export to Nigeria stood at GH¢365.6 million as at June 2015, compared to an estimate of GH¢210.7 million as at June 2014,” he said.
The scheme, he explained, had also introduced competition among community industries, leading to reasonable product price to the consumer.
The finance minister also said the screening and updating of the current database of Ghanaian companies with ETLS status were ongoing and expected to be completed by June 30, 2016.
“Since the beginning of 2015, about 18 Ghanaian industrial companies have been given approval to benefit from the scheme. Ghana will continue to vigorously pursue the implementation of the ETLS,” he said.