The ECOWAS Commission organized the 3rd Joint Meeting of the ECOWAS Ministers of Trade and Industry (ECOMOTI) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire from 27th – 28th of April 2023, to consider, approve and recommend key trade policy instruments to the ECOWAS Council of Ministers for adoption. The Meeting featured a round table with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to discuss the outcomes of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) and preparations for the MC13.
In his welcome remarks, Mr. Souleymane DIARRASSOUBA Minister of Trade, Industry, and Promotion of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), welcomed the Ministers of Trade and Industry, as well as Officials from the WTO Secretariat, ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions to the meeting on behalf of H.E. Alassane OUATTARA, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire. He emphasised the need to examine the best ways to strengthen economic integration, industrial development, and promotion of intra-regional trade, as well as to better integrate the region in international trade. He applauded the leadership of the WTO Director General (DG) which led to the successful outcomes of MC12, in particular the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Abas JALO, Minister of Trade of the Republic of Guinea Bissau and Chair of the 3rd Joint Meeting of ECOMOTI, commended the ECOWAS Commission for its effort to finalize regional trade instruments based on the directive of the 2nd Joint Meeting of ECOMOTI held in Abidjan in November 2022. He thanked the Ministers and the WTO DG, as well as the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions for their collaborative efforts to position West Africa to take advantage of trade opportunities. He called on the WTO to ensure that the multilateral trading system benefits Developing and Least Developed Countries.
In her remarks, Dr. Ngozi OKONJO-IWEALA, DG of the WTO, expressed her appreciation to ECOWAS Ministers of Trade and Industry for inviting the WTO Secretariat to their meeting. She noted that making full use of trade, continental integration and the multilateral trading system could help ECOWAS propel economic growth. She stated that the current economic juncture offers important opportunities for the continent, but in order to seize these opportunities, African countries need to lower trade costs that are among the world’s highest. Looking ahead to MC13, she underscored the important contribution that ECOWAS can make to showing that the WTO can keep making a difference for people, for the planet, and for Africa.
On behalf of H.E. Dr. Omar Alieu TOURAY, President of the ECOWAS Commission, Madame Massandjé TOURE-LITSE, ECOWAS Commissioner for Economic Affairs and Agriculture, thanked the Ministers, Officials from the WTO Secretariat and the UEMOA Commission for accepting the invitation to participate in the Ministerial meeting. She noted the role of the WTO Secretariat in administering a rule-based trading system and called on the WTO to continue to promote measures to address issues of food insecurity, fisheries subsidies, and the integration of Least Developed and Developing Countries into global value chains. She stated that the Meeting would present an opportunity to consider and adopt regional trade instruments and discuss the outcomes of MC12 as well as preparations towards MC13.
In his goodwill message, Dr. Paul Koffi KOFFI, UEMOA Commissioner in charge of Enterprise Development, Mining, Energy and Digital Economy, expressed his gratitude to the ECOWAS Commission for inviting the UEMOA Commission to participate in the meeting. He highlighted the strong collaboration between the two Commissions and reiterated the commitment of UEMOA in implementing programmes towards achieving common integration goals for the region.
The Meeting approved and recommended to the ECOWAS Council of Ministers for adoption, the ECOWAS E-Commerce Strategy and Implementation Plan (2023 – 2027), the ECOWAS Implementation Strategy for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and the Directive of Consumer Protection. Furthermore, the meeting commended the ECOWAS Commission for the progress made in the development of ECOWAS Common Trade Policy; ECOWAS Trade & Investment Promotion Strategy; and Regional Trade & Transport Facilitation Strategy. The Ministers took note of the implementation of the Informal Trade Regulation Support Programme (ITRSP) and discussed issues related to trade in Donkeys and Donkey products, gold trade, illegal trade in cash crops, as well as food insecurity.
The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the multilateral trading system as well as the implementation of the Decisions of the MC12 held in June 2022, and directed the ECOWAS Commission to develop a work program to guide Member States to form common positions in preparations for MC13.
The 3rd Joint Meeting of ECOMOTI was attended by Ministers of Trade and Industry, the Director General of WTO and Officials from the WTO Secretariat, as well as Commissioners and Officials from the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions.