A task force comprising officials of the ECOWAS Commission and their counterparts from the West African Monetary Institute (WAMI) working to eliminate impediments to intra-community trade has agreed on a template for four studies intended
to improve the implementation of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS), one of the pillars of the region’s integration agenda.
An ECOWAS Commission statement made available to PANA here Monday said the Terms of Reference agreed at the end of a three-day meeting of the officials relate to studies about the capacity of Member States to implement their trade integration obligations, and the benefits
and costs of implementing the ETLS.
The implementation of the scheme has been hampered mainly by non-tariff barriers, a sanction regime against Member States which default in their obligations under trade instruments.
The last of the studies will enable the two organizations prepare a position paper on trade in services in the region for Ministers of Trade of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ), which comprises Ministers from the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone,
ahead of the next Doha round of negotiations.
These five countries are working to create a second regional common currency by 2015 on the road to a single regional currency in 2020.
Besides the four studies, the seventh meeting of the task force which ended in Accra, Ghana, last Thursday also agreed on the modalities for the studies, as well as the structure of the studies which should be carried out in three phases and completed before the next meeting of the Ministers of Trade in June, 2012.
In this regard, the meeting agreed that all documentation related to the studies should be submitted to WAMI by 2 March 2012, while the ECOWAS Commission should designate focal points in its directorates of trade, customs and legal to coordinate the required documentation
to this effect.
In order to provide an annual platform for highlighting the status of implementation of trade-related regional instruments whose implementation is critical to regional integration, the task force proposed that areas of the practical constraints to the implementation of the Protocol on Free Movement by Member States should be integrated into the ECOWAS Commission President’s annual statutory report to the ECOWAS Council of Ministers and the Authority of Heads of State and Government.
Such a report, the meeting agreed, should provide a framework for peer reviewing the performance of Member States in discharging their obligations under trade related Protocols and Decisions and help stimulate increased implementation.
WAMI Acting Director General John Tei-Kitcher had said, in his opening remarks, that the meeting was in compliance with the directive of the Ministers of Trade during their fourth forum held in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in May 2011 to the two organizations to collaborate in carrying out thefour studies.
On his part, the Director of Multilateral Surveillance of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Lassané Kaboré, who led the ECOWAS team, underscored the value of improved trade to regional integration, adding that the bi-annual meeting enables officials of the two institutions to make proposals for improving intra community trade