The 11th Meeting of the joint ECOWAS-UEMOA Committee for the Management of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) opened in Cotonou, Benin Republic, Monday to review the draft CET Nomenclature, based on the 2012 version of the Harmonized System and the draft ECOWAS CET prepared by the two regional blocs in Banjul, The Gambia, last April.
The five-day meeting, holding within the framework of the implementation of the ECOWAS CET, will also examine the draft instruments related to Accompanying and Safeguard Measures to be adopted by member states during the implementation of the CET, an ECOWAS Commission statement obtained by PANA here said.
At a review meeting in June/July 2011 also in Cotonou, the two Commissions assessed the draft regional tariff holistically against the backdrop of the region’s agricultural and industrial policies, as well as West Africa’s Market Access Offer under the on-going Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations with the European Union.
Welcoming participants on behalf of ECOWAS Commission President James Victor Gbeho, the Acting Director of Customs, ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Salifou Tientore, urged them to make quality input to the draft documents and to facilitate progress on the outstanding issues.
He said the adoption of the CET is a major step in the establishment of a Customs Union under the ECOWAS integration agenda, and that without CET, West Africa cannot move forward on the EPA negotiations with the EU.
The negotiations which started in 2004 and were to have been concluded in 2007 are facing challenges over disagreements on some issues, including the scope of opening of West Africa’s markets to products from the EU.
Addressing the Cotonou meeting on behalf of the UEMOA (West African Monetary and Economic Union) Commission, the Director of Regional Market and Customs Union, Mr. Francois-Xavier Bambara, noted that while the two Commissions had come a long way on the CET project, much work still needed to be done.
He, however, expressed the hope that with commitment at all levels, an agreement would be reached by 2012.
The Director of Integration, Benin’s Ministry of Economy and Finance, Mr. Badirou Nassif, who opened the meeting on behalf of the Minister, described the CET as an important trade instrument and challenged participants to come up with useful recommendations to fast-track the process.
The joint meeting will not only provide member states with an opportunity to review the draft CET but also afford the ECOWAS Commission the platform to present the proposed CET Safeguard and Accompanying Measures to the member states.
In accordance with Article 3 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty, successful integration of the region depends on the creation of a common market through trade liberalisation and the adoption of a CET