The Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) has decried low volumes of trade within the sub-region, adding that the share of intra-regional trade has averaged 11 per cent over the last five years.
ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade Customs and Free Movement, Mr. Tei Konzi, disclosed this yesterday at the inaugural ECOWAS Forum for National Trade Facilitation Committees, held in Abuja.
He said that the contributing factors to low volumes of trade include poor trade-related infrastructure, weak production capacity, burdensome procedures and regulations.
While stressing that trade plays an important role in creating employment and generating wealth, he noted that trade facilitation has been at the heart of ECOWAS regional integration process, with the protocols and decisions on the free movement of persons and goods at the cornerstone of its economic integration.
He stated, “despite this focus, the share of intra-regional trade within ECOWAS has averaged 11 per cent over the last five years, and share of world trade remains negligible.”
Konzi added that in West Africa, there are already a number of regional trade facilitation initiatives being implemented or coordinated by the ECOWAS Commission, which are aimed at addressing some of these challenges and boosting trade.
These initiatives, he said, include: Customs interconnectivity, ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS), ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET), ECOWAS Customs Code, infrastructure programmes, including establishment of Joint Border Posts capacity building on trade policy formulation, as well as Negotiations and implementation of Trade Agreements such as the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
He noted that the implementation of these initiatives combined with the commitments made under the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) provide a strong basis for trade expansion in the region.
Konzi noted that for effective implementation of trade facilitation initiatives and reforms, there is a need for institutional coordination of the multiple stakeholder, both public and private, stressing that as a result, Trade Facilitation Committees play an important role in the implementation of trade facilitation reforms.
He stressed, “Although the TFA creates binding obligations and best endeavours solely on individual WTO members, regional approaches to implement trade facilitation measures can deliver greater benefits to individual countries and the regional community than just disconnected national reforms.”
Konzi was of the opinion that coordinated port and cross-border reforms would help create a more consistent and predictable regional trading environment by avoiding the imposition of diverging administrative procedures and requirements in each member state.
On his part, the Minister of Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayọ, said that trade facilitation was very important in advancing all the polices the country had set for itself.
Adebayọ who was represented by the Deputy Director, Trade, Mr. Aliyu Abubakar, said that trade could be a unifying factor if African countries trade among themselves, adding that the possibility of conflict and crisis would be minimised.
He further explained that a strong trade relationship has the possibility of minimising conflict, xenophobia and other things.