ECOWAS and the West African Monetary Institute (WAMI) are set to launch a trade facilitation support project to address the barriers militating against intra-community trade to enable the region realise its full trade potentials and benefits.
The directive for the project, following a study, was issued in October 2012 by Ministers of Trade of the four-nation West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ), which is working to create a second currency as part of the process for a single regional monetary union. Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia are the WAMZ Member States.
“We are in the preparatory stage of carrying out that directive,” said Dr. Abwaku Engrama, Director-General of the WAMI, in a speech in Accra, Ghana, Thursday at the opening of the eighth Meeting of the ECOWAS/WAMI Joint Task Force on trade-related issues.
The project will specifically enable the WAMZ countries address the deficiencies identified in a 2012 joint study by ECOWAS and WAMI which assessed the capacity of the monetary zone countries to effectively implement national and regional trade integration policies in line with the region’s common market and monetary integration aspirations.
In addition, it will help address “significant deficiencies in human capacity and trade facilitation processes required for cross-border trade which is less than five per cent in the WAMZ, and 15 per cent in the ECOWAS region,” identified in the 2012 study.
In the speech, read by Mr. John Tei Kitcher, Director of WAMI’s Multilateral Surveillance Department, Dr. Engrama said the proposal for the study were among the issues for discussion at the three-day Accra Joint Task Force meeting.
He also said the report of the 2012 study had been printed as a book and expressed the hope that this can be transformed into an annual publication on trade integration in WAMZ countries as a veritable reference material on relevant issues.
In his speech, the leader of the ECOWAS delegation and acting Director of Multilateral Surveillance at the Commission, Dr. Nelson Magbagbeola, said the Joint Task Force had provided a platform for collaboration on integration and trade related issues in recognition of the critical role of trade to economic and monetary union.
“This is premised on the fact that without smooth trade flows among ECOWAS Member States, including countries of WAMZ, there cannot be any meaningful economic and monetary union,” he affirmed, adding: “the essence of a common currency among countries of a monetary union is to facilitate trade among them.”
He noted that unless “trade and trade-related constraints, among others, are addressed within ECOWAS, there cannot be a credible and sustainable common currency in the WAMZ.”
In this regard, the ECOWAS official stressed the need to remove all bottlenecks or barriers that hamper trade flows among Member States.
The Joint Task Force sessions will feature presentations on the project, the criteria for assessing performance on the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS), the Convention on inter-State road transport, and the establishment of a transit corridor agency.
There will also be an update on the application of sanctions regime for breach of ECOWAS Protocols, the status of harmonisation of indirect taxes/VAT and customs code, as well as a discussion of the 2013 Work Programme for the Joint Task Force and proposals for a Standing Committee on the ETLS.