Ghanaian Minister for Trade and Industry Mr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah has congratulated Liberia on its accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and extended to the ECOWAS member a warm welcome on behalf of the government and people of Ghana at the just-ended tenth WTO Ministerial Conference that took place in Nairobi, Kenya, from 15th to 18th December 2015.
The minister noted that Liberia has come a long way from several years of war, exacerbated by the recent devastation caused by the Ebola Virus. According to the minister, Liberia’s accession demonstrated its commitment to the rule-based World Trade Organisation — which is the pre-eminent global forum for multilateral trade negotiations.
Mr. Spio-Garbrah further stated that the economic and trade policy reforms undertaken by Liberia — alongside the streamlining of the legal and regulatory frameworks during negotiations — have strengthened the Liberian economy’s resilience.
The minister was of the view that in taking just about eight years after the establishment of a Working Party to gain accession to the WTO, Liberia’s Accession can be considered one of the fastest in WTO history, as some countries have taken nearly 20 years to gain accession.
The accession process requires prospective member-countries to undertake a series of sometimes arduous and onerous reforms in order to gain WTO membership. The process of accession to the organisation as spelt out in Article XII of the Marrakesh Agreement, the accord that established the WTO, has not been easy for Liberia after agreeing to the WTO terms of membership in 2007.
In Ghana’s view, the tough negotiations for Liberia with the Working Party Members on concessions and commitments on market access for goods and services may have stretched Liberia’s capacities and resources as a least developed country.
Liberia will have until 30th June 2016 to ratify the deal, and will become a full-fledged WTO member 30 days after it notifies acceptance of its Protocol of Accession to the WTO Director-General. Liberia will become the ninth least developed country to become a WTO member since the organisation was established in 1995.
The minister expressed conviction that Liberia will be up to the task of meeting the demands of its “accession package”, having shown resilience thus far and having developed a comprehensive Accession Implementation Plan to that effect.
As a sub-regional ally, the minister assured Liberia of Ghana’s support in this regard and at all times. He called on the various Working Parties to hasten the process of accession for the 19 governments who are currently negotiating their WTO accession, and reiterated the call by African Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) ministers to accelerate the process for acceding African countries without imposing onerous concessions and commitments beyond their capacity, and by extending technical support to them during this bidding process.