Thursday – Monrovia, Liberia, March 23, 2017 Mano River Union (MRU) countries began a two-day brainstorming workshop to share experiences on the implementation of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme¬ (ETLS) within the MRU Countries.
The primary objective of the workshop is to create awareness, sensitize and familiarize MRU officials and the private sector on the key elements of the ETLS, with emphasis on its application, and addressing issues such as: approved enterprises, rules of origin, the role of National Approval Committee, and the percentage of raw material required before products can be qualified.
Ambassador Tunde Ajisomo, ECOWAS Representative to Liberia addressing the forum, said the ETLS was adopted to facilitate the achievement of one of the first objectives of the Community which is the creation of a Free Trade Zone. He said the ETLS serves as a platform for a common market through the liberalization of trade by the abolition of customs duties levied on imports and exports, the abolition of non-tariff barriers and is one of the major pillars for the consolidation of the common market and regional integration in West Africa.
Hon. Stephen T. Marvie Jr., Deputy Minister of Commerce and Trade Services at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI), urged MRU countries to promote and encourage simplification, harmonization and standardization, which are critical elements for the implementation of ETLS in the region. Min. Marvie reminded participants that: “We need to grow the economies of the region. With the advent of the health crisis, many of the people look up to us as policymakers to resuscitate the economy. They are also aware that commodity prices for key exports have fallen and are looking to us for innovative ways to revive their hope”.
He informed the gathering that the government is in the process of getting a private sector operator to come in and set up a single window platform to handle the exchange of trade transactions between traders and government agencies which aim is to aim to reduce time in processing import/export, documents as well as improve other horizontal processes.
Maurice O. Ogutu, Agriculture Development Officer of United States Agency for International Development (USAID), behalf of the United States Embassy, said increasing regional trade is a cornerstone of the United States Government’s ‘Feed the Future’ strategy for food security in West Africa. She said, USAID works with West African partners to boost competitiveness of the transport and logistics sectors to reduce or eliminate unnecessary legal and regulatory barriers to trade, and to improve the efficiency of regional market transactions.
He said USAID and the US Embassy are partnering directly with ECOWAS through the Promoting Food Across Borders (PROFAB) Program to ensure stronger implementation of regional trade agreements such as the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme and to ensure that sanitary and phytosanitary measures are implemented in ways that facilitate trade while also protecting public health.