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ECOWAS Trade Ministers Move To Improve Regional Economic Integration

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Ministers of Trade from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have moved to strengthen economic integration among Member States by urging them to adopt and present a common position based on regional instruments at the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) negotiations.

This was one of the key recommendations of the Ministers during the regional meeting which held on 24th May 2018 in Abuja, Nigeria in order deliberate on trade policies which included the West Africa- European Union (EU) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the ECOWAS Common Trade Policy (CTP).

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, who was represented by the Commissions’ Vice-President, Madam Finda Koroma stated that the meeting showed the shared objective of Member States of delivering the region from poverty, food insecurity and entrenching prosperity among Community citizens.

President Brou highlighted several developments in the areas of trade and customs in the region which include the adoption of the ECOWAS Customs code and the ECOWAS Aid for Trade Strategy, the launch of the ECOWAS Services Policy review, the setup of a regional task force on the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) and the signing of the AfCFTA by twelve Member States.

Hence, the Ministers called on the ECOWAS Commission to ensure better coordination of the positions of Member States with view to preserving the gains in regional integration efforts.

Regarding the EPA, the Ministers called for more flexibility on the part of the EU with regard to the perverse effects of the implementation of the interim-EPA (IEPA) on regional integration by pushing back some aspects of the liberalization schedules and examining the possibility of making adjustments in the regional EPA to encourage accession of the sixteen West African States to the agreement.

President Brou further stated that the Commission in collaboration with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) have designed the ECOWAS Trade Information System (ECOTIS), which will enhance trade transparency by providing an online database and portal for use by economic operators within and outside the ECOWAS region.

Mr. Ludwig Kirchner, the head of the GIZ support programme to the ECOWAS Commission, in his statement during the meeting, commended this Commission, Member States, regional private sector organizations and civil society organizations for their commitment to the integration process.

He reiterated GIZ’s commitment through the funding of the EU and the German government to continue to support the various trade policies of the ECOWAS Commission.

Also present at the meeting was the Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free movement of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Tei Konzi, the Directors of that Commission for Trade, Dr. Gbenga Obideyi and for Customs, Mr. Salifou Tiemtore and the representative of West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU).

The Ministers of Trade meeting was preceded by a three day meeting of trade experts from ECOWAS Member States.

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