Background on Liberia’s Road to WTO Accession
Liberia submitted its application (Memorandum of Foreign Trade Regime-MFTR) in 2007 under the leadership of H.E. Olubanke King Akerele, then Minister of Commerce and Industry. After seven years of work with technicians across several ministries and agencies and several studies and stakeholder engagements, in May of 2014, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in a letter to the Director General of the WTO, Roberto Azevedo, expressed Liberia need of assistance to fast track its accession’s process in time for MC10. She also appointed the Minister of Commerce as the Chief Negotiator. The additional technical work commenced with the support of SIDA/NBT, ITC, UNTAD, ACWL, World Bank, EIF, and King and Spalding Law Firm. Subsequently, Liberia’s WTO Market Access Package tabling its offers was submitted in October of 2014.
Several meetings were scheduled as per the comprehensive roadmap to fast track the Accession for 2015 during the MC10 meeting when the WTO will celebrate its 20th Anniversary in Nairobi, Kenya. However, given the health crisis, those working meetings were put off to January. The first of several critical meetings (Pulse Checks, Technical Working Sessions, Bilateral Negotiations) that will lead to conclusion on bilateral negotiations and the drafting of the Factual Summary and Draft Working Party Report is currently underway in Geneva with the Liberian delegation of lawyers, tariff and services professionals from the Ministry of Commerce, the Liberia Revenue Authority and the Law Reform Commission.
Liberia Accessions Package include Offer on Goods (Tariffs) which is based on ECOWAS CET (Common External Tariff and Customs Union) and Offer on Services which is a conservative package that includes Professional Services (Legal Services, Accounting Services, Taxation Services, Architectural Services, Engineering Services, Integrated Engineering Services, Medical and Dental Services, Veterinary Services, Services provided by Midwives, Nurses, Physiotherapists, and Paramedical Personnel; Computer and Related Services; Research and Development Services; Real Estate Services); Communication Services; Construction and Related Engineering Services; Distribution Services; Educational Services; Environmental Services; Financial Services; Health Related and Social Services; Tourism and Travel Related Services; Recreational, Cultural and Sporting Services, and Transport Services.
These sectors were selected based on several years of consultation with various sectors’ stakeholders and research conducted to inform the selection process. They also represent sector for critical job creation opportunities or those in dire need of private sector investments. Sectors already liberalized but in need of major private sector investment were also included.
Summary of Liberia’s Accession Process
The WTO Accession Negotiations of Liberia are on the threshold of conclusion. The negotiations were initiated in 2007 based on the application from the Government of Liberia. Upon the instruction of H.E. Madame Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia, the negotiating team of the Liberian Government has used Liberia's accession negotiations, strategically, as an instrument for domestic reforms designed, inter alia, for post-conflict reconstruction and national reconciliation and to integrate Liberia into the global economy on the basis of the WTO core values of the market economy, good governance, transparency and the rule of law. As directed by President Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia has met these objectives as set by the President. Full realization of the benefits shall be work in progress and shall entail a focused WTO Post-Accession Support Strategy for Liberia", upon membership.
Technically, at this stage, the draft Accession’s Package is being completed by Secretariat. Factually, several key points are to be noted:
Market Access: In keeping with Accession’s Roadmap, Liberia has concluded bilateral negotiations on its market access with Japan, Canada, EU, US, Thailand and Chinese Taipei.
Agriculture: Liberia has concluded its negotiations on Agriculture and members have accepted its Agriculture Supporting Tables.
Rules: The updated Draft Report of the Working Party has been completed and circulated with members.
Third Working Party Meeting: On July 24th the Liberian delegation participated in the Third Working Party Meeting and a technical team concluded the with technical working sessions after meeting to conclude any outstanding issues. Subsequently, a Technical Verification Meeting was held on July 28, 2015, on the consolidations of bilateral agreements, updated Draft Working Party Report and the Legislative Action Plan
Chair and Director’s Visit: Invitation letter extended to Working Party Chair and Director of Accession Division for visit week of August 25-28, for Stakeholder engagements with public and private sectors including meetings with Cabinet, Leadership of Legislature and Private Sector Stakeholders including various associations (LIBA, Chamber of Commerce, professional associations).
October 8, 2015 – 4th and Final Working Party Meeting: Conclusion of Liberia’s accession negotiations and adoption of the Draft Accession Package, ad referendum.
September 2015 – President visit to New York for UN Summit on Sustainable Development Goals. President to Present Post Accession Strategy to Stakeholder, on margins of SDGs Summit.
October 8, 2015 – President’s visit to Geneva for Friend of Liberia Event and meetings on Liberia’s Post Accession Strategy with Partners (WIPO, WTO, EU, US, UNCTAD, ILO) and Swiss Financial Services Community – (accompanied by Central Bank Governor, Minister of Finance and Commissioner General of Liberia Revenue Authority)
MC10 (Kenya) 15-18 December: Trade Ministers at Ministerial 10 (MC10) Conference in Nairobi shall consider Accession Package for formal approval. President invited to sign Liberia’s Accession Protocol with WTO Director General.
More updates can be found on the WTO update page.