The Deputy Minister for Trade at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI), Stephen Marvie, Jr., has said that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) needs intra-regional trade to unlock agricultural and industrial potential in the region.
Minister Marvie made the assertion yesterday at the kickoff of a 3-day sensitization and training on the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) and ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) held in Monrovia.
Minister Marvie said he was pleased to see that Liberia finally joined other ECOWAS states to implement the ETLS, which will now facilitate the regional trade advocated for long ago as a region.
“Integration and trade in West Africa are well documented in our history as a region. The region has always been crossed by trade flows of goods and services between nations. It is this mix of trade flows and culture that have shaped the image of the region beyond the borders and aspirations of people towards integration,” Minister Marvie said.
“Our industrialization efforts could thus be based on structural changes driven by strong regional institutions,” he continued, “a structural network of infrastructures, especially in the energy and transport sectors, and reduced asymmetries between countries through common sectoral policies and convergence and institutions.”
Minister Marvie said Liberia’s trade with Mano River Union and ECOWAS region is grossly estimated at approximately 5 and 10 percent respectively.
According to him, the ETLS presents opportunities for Liberia’s industries, companies and the private sector at large, adding that “the rationale underpinning the ETLS is to promote regional trade transactions using regional modalities.”
With the advent of the CET, he said, Liberia is again showing to the rest of the world that the future is regional trade. The CET is the basis of the goods (tariff) offer presented by Liberia at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
He lauded ECOWAS for the level of support given Liberia to train its technicians and policy makers on specific provisions of the ETLS and CET to ensure that decision makers understand the key aspects of the regional instrument meant to promote regional trade, integration and development.
“We need to continue to use constructive engagement of ECOWAS trade and customs to remind policy makers of the exigent need to tackle those challenges and facilitate trade, as indicated in the WTO trade facilitation agreement, an agreement that has come into force,” Minister Marvie added.
Alvin E. Attah, Deputy Minister for Economic Management at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), said Liberia needs trade at most. “We are grateful that the country is undertaking this initiative at this time,” he added.
“The country needs to take advantage of the opportunities in trade. We have much at our advantage to make ECOWAS region a trade hub for the rest of Africa,” he said.
The region in 2016 enjoyed improved growth of around 4.3 percent and it is expected to grow up to 5.5 percent this year, as indicated in the previous year, he noted.
“Trade liberalization within the region under the CET can further strengthen the growth capacity of ECOWAS. We also expect to benefit from entrepreneurship development, increased intra-regional trade and enhance economic activities with less barriers, knowledge sharing and better welfare for the citizens,” Minister Attah said.
However, he said, those benefits can only be accrued to citizens when the entrepreneurs are aware of the benefits they stand to gain from the implementation of this program.
Ambassador Tunde Ajisomo, ECOWAS representative to Liberia, said the primary vision of the founding fathers of ECOWAS was the development of economic cooperation between countries of the region, adding that “this informed the establishment and proper name known as ECOWAS today.”
“The need to improve the welfare of the citizens, develop West African industries, creates employment and wealth. They also talked about addressing the deplorable economic situation prevailing within the sub-region, in 1975 at the time when ECOWAS was born,” Amb. Ajisomo said.
According to him, the founding fathers rightly observed that countries of the region were too dependent on other continents for their needs and subsistence to the detriment of trade and economic relations with their immediate neighbors.