ECOWAS RTFC discuss elimination of non-tariff barriers in the region

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The Third Meeting of the ECOWAS Regional Trade Facilitation Committee (RTFC) was held on 27 – 29 March in Accra – Ghana, to review the implementation of regional trade facilitation reforms and consider innovative approaches to improve free movement of goods in the region.

The meeting also provided the regional experts with a platform to consider the ECOWAS Non-Tariff Barrier (NTB) Elimination Policy and the Regional Trade and Transport Facilitation Strategy, which are expected to significantly reduce the challenges faced traders in the region and increase intra-ECOWAS trade.

On behalf of H.E. Nana AKUFO-ADDO, the President of the Republic of Ghana, the Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Hon. BAAFI welcomed participants to Accra, Ghana. He noted that the 3rd RTFC meeting provided a platform for relevant stakeholders to address trade barriers in the region. He stated that the advent of AfCFTA provides the West African region with an opportunity to work together to form common positions, and effectively benefit from the continental free trade area. He urged the Commission and Member States to take advantage of AfCFTA to develop local economies and improve intra-regional trade in West Africa.

Mr. DJALO, Secretary General at the Ministry of Trade of the Republic of Guinea Bissau, and Chair of the Meeting, noted that the region can greatly benefit from the opportunities presented by the continental free trade area. He also highlighted that the need to reduce barriers to intra-regional trade and facilitate free movement of goods as enshrined in the ECOWAS protocol. He noted that the meeting will provide an opportunity for participants to make proposals in order to address challenges associated with free movement of goods and urged participants come up with actionable recommendations during the meeting.

In his opening remarks, read on behalf of Madame Massandje TOURE-LITSE, ECOWAS Commissioner for Economic Affairs and Agriculture, Mr. Kolawole SOFOLA, Acting Director of Trade noted that trade facilitation is among the most effective solutions to maintain the normal flow of the global supply chain and mitigate the negative effects of conflicts and crisis. He highlighted that the RTFC provides a platform that fosters holistic approach to deal with trade facilitation reforms which cut across various thematic sectors and bring together stakeholders from public and private sector, as well as civil society organizations.

The meeting considered the status of implementation of the WTO TFA and agreed on assigned roles and responsibilities for Member States and ECOWAS Institutions to improve implementation. The Meeting also proposed mechanisms to deepen collaboration between the ETLS Task force and the RTFC in ensuring the full implementation of the ETLS across Member States and improve free movement of goods within the region. The meeting unanimously recognized the need for ECOWAS Member States to adopt a strong mechanism to report and eliminated non-tariff barriers and abnormal practices that continue to hinder intra-regional trade, especially for MSMEs and small traders.

The Third RTFC Meeting was attended by Member States’ Experts representing the Ministries responsible for Trade, Customs Administrations and National Chamber of Commerce. Also were present at the meeting, representatives of the ECOWAS Commission and Regional Business Associations, as well as World Bank Group, the World Trade Organization, the German Agency for International Development and United Nation’s Conference for Trade and Development.

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