stakeholders shown how to sustain customs union in AfCFTA implementation

President Akufo-Addo interacting with President Paul Kagame
President Akufo-Addo interacting with President Paul Kagame

Mr Peter Joy Sewornoo, Programme Officer, Trade Policy Directorate of the ECOWAS Commission (EC) has said a uniform customs union liberalisation scheme and ratifications and signatures was valid for the attainment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) framework agreement.

He said the 90 percent level of ambition, which constituted the sensitive and exclusion clauses of the AfCFTA framework agreement, was okayed by all parties to liberalise trade.

He said there was disagreement on the remaining 10 percent designation for sensitive products of seven percent and exclusion list of three percent for liberalisation on import value limitation, which is an anticlimax for ECOWAS member states in the journey to actualize the AfCFTA.

Mr Sewornoo was explaining the ECOWAS Commission’s dynamics on the Agreement to member states in the just ended workshop to update 34 members of the Network of Economic Journalists for West Africa on progress made, which was under the auspices of the UNECA Sub Regional Office for West Africa (ECA/SRO-WA) in Monrovia, Liberia.

It was to broaden their skills to better play advocacy and disseminate implementation information to members of the public on the framework agreement.

He said the ECOWAS common external tariff (CET) implications are that the seven percent sensitive products would attract 429 tariff lines and an import value of 10.3 percent, which would directly affect Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Cape Verde while the other three percent would draw 184 tariff lines on import value of 7.1 per cent.

Mr Sewornoo said the seven percent is expected to attract 10 years liberalization and developed African countries with the other Least Developed Countries (LDCs) being considered for 13 years period for liberalization.

He said ECOWAS concerns, which bothers largely on Article 7, entails the progressive elimination of import duties as much as the AfCFTA protocol on trading in goods and services are concerned adding the ECOWAS community levy on intra-Africa trade would be progressively eliminated “As a charge having equivalent effect.”

He said an African Development Bank study estimates a minimal impact on 4.0 per cent on imports from ECOWAS states with the Commission estimating a much greater impact in real value of six percent, equivalent of $25 million annually, which is a major source of income to the community would be a disincentive proposal.

Eliminating “charges having an equivalent effect” in the AfCFTA would disallow the application of the levies on imports from the State Parties.

Mr Andrew Mold, acting Director, ECA/SRO East Africa, said AfCFTA framework is a unique and timely opportunity for the continent to integrate by doing business among themselves adding that the Sub Regional Offices would offer complimentary processes to attain the tenets of the agreement in earnest.

He said the framework agreement in the AfCFTA on its own was not enough stating “We need to build productive capacities across all sectors of our economies and we need effective industrial policies to succeed.”

Mr Dosso Bakary, Acting Director of ECA/SRO-WA, said ECA, ECOWAS Commission in collaboration with member states and development partners would continue to chart positive pathways that would inure to the aspiration of members of the economic bloc in an attempt to consolidate the position and gains of integration.

AfCFTA ECOWAS Trade Policy Implication is built around five inter-related and mutually-reinforcing characteristics based on a single market production with free flow of goods, services, investment and freer flow of labour and business enterprises.

The agreement would trigger competition, diversify and dynamic region poised for competition policy, intellectual property rights and consumer protection.

It is anticipated that with an enhanced connectivity and sectoral cooperation, an inclusive and people-centred regional bloc through equitable economic development and a fully integrated into the global economy pursued through a more coherent approach towards external economic relations to succeed.

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