ECOWAS, Mano River Union to Strengthen Trade Liberalization
Monrovia – In an effort to consolidate common market and the creation of a free trade across borders in West Africa, countries in the Mano River Basin have begun creating awareness about the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme which provides opportunities for citizens trading in the region.
Report by Al-Varney Rogers [email protected]
The Trade Liberalization Scheme is the main tool for promoting regional trade. It has been implemented since 1979 but has produced poor results. All ECOWAS countries have so far received TLS protocols and incorporated them into their trade legislation, except from Liberia, which does not effectively implement them.
ECOWAS Special Representative Ambassador ‘Tunde Ajisomo said, the ETLS serves as the main operational instrument for the promotion of Free Trade Area in the West African sub-region, and is in tandem with the objectives for which ECOWAS was established.
“It serves also as a platform for a common market through the liberalization of trade by the abolition of customs duties levied on imports and exports amongst Member-States; and the abolition of non-tariff barriers,” Ajisomo said.
“The ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) is, therefore, the mechanism established by our ECOWAS Leaders to operationalize the Free Trade Area by facilitating the movement of originating goods within the Mano River Union and our region as a whole.
It is the instrument needed to ensure continuous economic growth of our region and an escape from the socio-economic backwardness for our people.
The Mano River Union Member-States cannot afford to be left out.”
The ECOWAS Representative said the objective of the workshop was to sensitize and familiarize relevant MRU officials and members of the private sector on the key elements of the ETLS, with a special focus on its application.
“I have no doubt that the 2-day Workshop would provide participants with in-depth knowledge of the application and processes of ETLS as they would be better placed to take advantage of the opportunities offered by this economic instrument that was designed to move originating products freely within the sub-region.”
Ajisomo commended Member-States in the MRU that have commenced ETLS implementation, such as Cote d’Ivoire since 1998 with a total number of 274 approved enterprises, and 957 originating products.
Ajisomo continued: “Guinea, on the other hand, commenced ETLS implementation also in 1998 with 17 approved enterprises, and 43 originating products, while Sierra Leone, on its part, commenced ETLS implementation in 1991, with 10 approved enterprises and 14 originating products.
In the case of Liberia, we are delighted that it commenced the ETLS implementation at the beginning of 2017, with no approved enterprises or originating products yet.”
Ajisomo said ECOWAS strongly believes that the Liberian Government and the private sector are determined to catch up and take advantage of this economic instrument to strengthen economic activities with Member-States.
“ECOWAS wishes to reiterate its commitment to providing necessary support to MRU Member-States in its efforts to achieve full implementation of ETLS status for the benefits of MRU Member-States and the entire sub-region,” Ajisomo said.
Deputy Commerce and Industry Minister Steve Marvie assured ECOWAS of the implementation of the trade scheme.
He said the trade scheme will help in reducing unnecessary burden on trade.
Marvie said TLS will help encourage investors in the region, adding that if it is fully utilized, difficulty in clearing containers at the port will reduce.