Integrating Trade Issues into Liberia’s Development Agenda

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World Bank Country Rep. Dobraja_web.jpg

The Ministry of Commerce (MOC) and its partners on Wednesday concluded on a one-day Liberia Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS) aimed at building stronger links with trade organizations in the world. It was held under the theme, “Promoting Trade for Sustainable Growth and Development,” and organized by the MOC for public and private sector representatives for the validation of the update of the 2008 DTIS.

The DTIS aims to promote export diversification or expand into new areas of business, and inclusive growth, Commerce Minister Axel Addy explained.

The World Bank Country Manager for Liberia, Inguna Dobraja, told the participants that the DTIS is important, but not the only outcome of the partnership with Liberia. She added that focusing on trade should be seen as one of the channels to use in rebuilding and diversifying Liberia’s economy.

“Focusing on trade domestically is important since engaging in trade activities is the livelihood of many Liberians; people doing petty trading in the streets, small farmers in rural areas, fishermen along the coast- they all could contribute and benefit more from the economic growth through trade”, she asserted.

Madam Iguna added that the role of government will be to create opportunities for all; in terms of market access resources and an unbiased regulatory environment, which are required for both Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and businesses that are run by Liberians. This, she believes, is an important prerequisite of building inclusive society and sustainable development.

She said the DTIS builds on promoting market access to domestic private sector by improving the country’s trade competitiveness and creating linkages between the domestic economy and global value chains; opening the Liberian economy under the World Trade Organization (WTO) accession and customs union protocols of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and how to leverage Liberia’s natural resources to promote export diversification.

The goal, she said, is to provide a roadmap for integrating trade issues into Liberia’s development agenda, diversify export portfolio and create more and better job opportunities for Liberians.

She then reiterated the World Bank’s commitment to continue working together with all stakeholders in moving forward the trade reform agenda to create growth that is more inclusive and providing opportunities for all Liberians.

Commerce Minister Axel Addy said he welcomes the workshop but expressed regret over the low turnout of private businesses representatives.

He stated that the study is to also look at constraints facing small business owners as the economy of the country can only improve if they are empowered through training and skills.

“Trade,” he said, “is a key anchor for any transformation of a country and infrastructure is critical for economic transformation,” adding that those activities can transform or be a facilitator for rapid growth of the country’s economy.

“I know many businesses have come to raise issues on work and residence permits, and registering business in compliance with transparency; all impact trade. Our businesses have increased and we have come to the top ten in Africa, because of such a tool. We commend the World Bank and, as many of you know, Liberia is about to join the World Trade Organization which will improve our scale of business”, the Commerce Minister declared.

He said in the next five years, he is of the hope that Liberia will be rated an environment for business as the country awaits support in transforming the economy.

“We must create Liberian entrepreneurs at the end of the day, because everyone wants to live with dignity and we have to be opened to partnership as a small economy and strive to do it perfectly,” he stated.

Minister Addy noted that, “In all of our actions… to achieve key transformation, we will align aid and trade and if they are there it will build entrepreneurs, drive SME and inclusive growth to transform the country”.

World Bank, EIF (Enhancing Integrated Framework and SPIU (Single Projects Implementation Unit), in collaboration with the MOC, among others, supported the program.

Wednesday’s discussions were centered on the effective trade integration, trade competiveness as well as presentation on the proposed way forward on the Action Matrix of the DTIS, etc.

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