The National Chairman of the Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia (PATEL), Presley S. Tenwah, said the Common Extended Tariff (CET) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), if amended by the Legislature, would be a bad law that leaves Liberian businesses at a disadvantage, arguing that most Liberians are engaged in small businesses.
Tenwah said most of the goods Liberian businesses trade in, such as used clothes, used cars and the like, are not part of the goods that would benefit from the ECOWAS tariff.
The PATEL chairman made the observation on Monday, March 27, in the House’s First Floor Conference Room during a public hearing on “An Act to Amend the Act Ratifying and Adopting the ECOWAS Common External Tariff as Amended.”
The public hearing was conducted by the chairman of the Joint Committee on Ways, Means, Finance & Development Planning and Commerce & Trade, Rep. Prince Moye.
Tenwah stressed that most of the goods that are supposed to be sold only by Liberians according to the Liberianization Policy are imported and sold by foreign businesspeople.
He said that Liberia does not have “factories” to compete with other countries to boost her domestic economy.
Other members of PATEL, Katumba Dolley, Sheik Jallah and Leon Topoe, told the lawmakers that “the law should sleep and never wake up.”
The president of the Liberia Chamber of Commerce (LCC), Francis A. Dennis Jr., differed with PATEL, and expressed support for the ratification of the ECOWAS CET.
He, however, urged the lawmakers to protect the “space of Liberian businesses,” by ensuring that foreigners don’t venture into businesses which are reserved only for Liberians.
The president of the Liberia Business Association (LIBA), David Sembeh, also expressed support for the CRT, while buttressing LCC on the prioritization of Liberian businesses.
The Ministry of Finance & Development Planning was represented by Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs, Adolphus D. Forkpa, and the director of the Tax Policy Division, Molley O. Kiazolu, as was the Ministry of Commerce and Industry through its Assistant Minister for Trade Services, Daniel Dean.
The chairman of the Joint Committee, who is also the Chairman on Ways, Means, Finance & Development Planning, Rep. Prince Moye, said the Committee will strive for the Liberianization Policy to be upheld, indicating that they will work closely with the Ministry of Commerce.
The co-chairman of the Joint Committee, who is the chairman on the Committee on Commerce and Trade, Rep. Samuel Kogar, said he would work to ensure the ratification of the CET protocol.
Meanwhile, it may be recalled that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wrote Speaker J. Emmanuel Nuquay recently on the ratification of “An Act to Amend the Act Ratifying and Adopting the ECOWAS Common External Tariff as Amended.”
The President said: “The objective of the bill is to create the legal framework that allows Liberia adopt a five-year migration plan to the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET).”
According to the communication from President Sirleaf, it was agreed among members of ECOWAS to adopt a common external tariff for all imported products from outside the ECOWAS community with a view to establish a customs union.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf maintained that the Act ratifying and adopting the CET in Liberia provides for a two year transitional period, thereby alleviating the immediate negative impact of the CET as it relates to basic household consumables and critical inputs.
“Due to the impact of the CET on national revenue, the ECOWAS authority has provided each country a five-year transitional period (of which 2 years have elapsed) for implementing the tariffs for certain commodities,” the President asserted. “The bill when passed shall repeal and replace the migration plan which was adopted under the CET implementation with a new migration plan.”
According to reports, 10 member states have so far implemented the Common External Tariff (CET), which came into effect in January 2015.
The ECOWAS CET aims to ensure transparency and facilitate the ease of doing business both within the sub-region and with third party countries, and would boost sub-regional trade between 10 to 14 percent (%).
The ECOWAS CET also has provision for a temporary Import Adjustment Tax, which was accommodated to allow countries to adjust to the scheme during the five-year transitional period ending in 2019.
Howbeit, Committees on Ways, Means, Finance & Development Planning and Judiciary have been mandated by the House’s Plenary and report within a week.