Legislature Ratifies Liberia’s WTO Entry

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The House of Representatives has unanimously concurred with the Senate to ratify the protocol of accession for Liberia to be a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

On Tuesday, all 44 lawmakers in session voted in favor of the motion, which was made by Grand Kru County Representative George Wesseh Blamoh, Chairman on the Committee on Executive.

The undisputed passage was due to a report by the Joint Committee on Commerce and Industry, Foreign Affairs and Judiciary, headed by Rep. Charles K. Bardyl, Chairman on the Committee on Commerce and Industry.

The Protocol, which was approved on Thursday, April 21, by the Senate, is now to be signed by the President, for Liberia to become 163rd member of the WTO.

Liberia would also become the 8th member of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) to join the organization since 1995.

“The World Trade Organization promotes trade liberalization; and as a member of the comity of nations, Liberia’s relations with other nations include trade,” the committee said.

“Liberia is a post-conflict country with many developmental challenges. The way to surmount these challenges is to explore our untapped potential as well as showcase our national resource endowment, particularly taking advantage of the platform provided by the World Trade Organization (WTO).”

It added: “With the enunciation of the Vision 2030 and the Agenda for Transformation (AFT) by the Government of Liberia, which inculcate new development frontiers, Liberia stands at a great advantage when the WTO state is utilized.”

It may be recalled that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf wrote both Houses (the House of Representatives and Senate) in February 2016 that on December 16, 2015 the WTO adopted Liberia’s Accession Package.

The President said the country was accepted as the latest continental Africa and final member of ECOWAS to join the multilateral trading system at the WTO’s 10th Ministerial Conference held for the first time in sub-Saharan Africa.

“At that historic occasion, I signed the protocol for Liberia’s accession,” the President said. “The accession package contains Liberia’s commitment to domestic reforms. The reform takes into consideration Liberia’s enhancement of its business climate to provide a fair, transparent and predictable business environment that fosters trade in a competitive manner.”

President Sirleaf added: “Liberia’s package contains the Liberia National Trade Policy (LNTP). The LNTP focuses on trade issues and is consistent with the Agenda for Transformation. The policy also builds on the WTO accession strategy, the Diagnostic Trade

Integration Study Update (DTISU) and the National Export Strategy (NES).”

The World Trade Organization (WTO) was created in 1994, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

It may also be recalled that WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo welcomed Liberia to the organization, pledging his commitment to support the country as it completes the post-accession process.

“It is particularly appropriate that at this first Ministerial Conference in Africa we are welcoming a new African member. The approval of Liberian’s accession marks the WTO’s 35th completed accession process, and Liberia has shown that commitment,” Azevêdo said.

The ceremony was graced by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, who also joined others in congratulating and welcoming Liberia into the WTO.

Liberia’s accession to the WTO comes at a time when more than ever before, the country’s economy needs to be revitalized for commercial trade, which has been greatly impacted, especially by the Ebola epidemic.

Liberia submitted its formal request for accession to the WTO in June 2007, and this is therefore the end of an eight-and-a-half year accession process.

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