Swedish National Board of Trade’s support to Liberia’s WTO accession and membership – Funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
Launched in 2013, the Swedish Government’s support to Liberia’s WTO accession is a long term collaboration between the Swedish National Board of Trade (NBT) and MoCI focusing on providing support to Liberia’s WTO accession. The NBT is the Swedish governmental agency responsible for issues relating to foreign trade, the European Union Internal Market and trade policy. The project is fully funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
The road to WTO membership entails a lot of technical and complex work including extracting information on all laws and regulations pertinent to Liberia’s foreign trade regime, (e.g. technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary issues, trade related intellectual property rights, agricultural subsidies, import licenses etc.) preparing a legislative action plan on how to harmonize Liberia’s laws and regulations with WTO rules, and negotiating market access offers with regard to Liberia’s import tariffs and the level of foreign participation in Liberia’s services sectors. Once a member a country will then have to implement all the rules contained in the WTO agreements according to the negotiated legislative action plan and the commitments made.
The main focus of the project was initiallyto facilitate Liberia’s accession to the WTO through the means of capacity development through training activities, technical assistance to complete the accession file and activities to engage relevant stakeholders. The project also financially supported the core negotiation team’s participation in all working party meetings and bilateral negotiations in Geneva.
When Liberia successfully was accepted as a member by the WTO members in December 2015, the project adjusted to the new post-accession environment and shifted focus to facilitate for Liberia to take advantage of its membership. Until 2018, NBT will continue to develop capacity through training activities, assisting technical matters and facilitate for MoCI to engage relevant stakeholders, but now in the context of implementing the commitments Liberia agreed on as terms for its WTO membership. NBT will also assist MoCI in ensuring the existence of an appropriate organisational structure to deal with trade policy issues relevant for a WTO member. NBT will put a special emphasis on Liberia’s commitment of developing an information portal for doing business in the various services sectors in Liberia. This is expected to improve the ease of doing business in Liberia.
The main beneficiary of the project is MoCI where two NBT technical advisors are posted to assist MoCI on a daily basis. Due to the scope of the WTO process, several ministries and agencies are actively involved in the process.
Reaping the benefits of WTO membership
WTO membership, in conjunction with other reforms, provide the opportunity to contribute to Liberia’s private sector development and integration into the global economy. By adopting necessary legal reforms and adhering to WTO principles, Liberia will have predictable and transparent laws and regulations that are approximated to international best practices when it comes to many areas related to trade, investments and doing business. This will make it easier to do business and to attract investments.