At WAMZ Confab, Minister Tarpeh Recommits Liberia To ECOWAS Free Trade, Barrier Removal

Minister Tarpeh (middle) chairs the 9th Ministers’ Forum of WAMZ in Abuja

(Abuja, December 3, 2018:) Liberia’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Professor Wilson K. Tarpeh, has reiterated Liberia’s commitment to the full implementation of ECOWAS’ free trade protocols.

Minister Tarpeh, on behalf of President George Manneh Weah and the Liberian Government, has also promised the Liberian Government’s commitment to removing trade barriers.

A press release from the Liberian Embassy in Abuja says Minister Tarpeh made the assertions over the weekend during the 9th Trade Ministers’ Forum of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ). The conference which brought together representatives from several countries in the West African region was held on Friday, November 30, 2018 at a transcontinental hotel in Abuja. The theme for the forum was “Harnessing Intra-WAMZ Trade Potential through Value Addition and Diversification”, the release continues.

Serving as Chairman of the Forum, the Liberian Commerce Minster expressed the commitment of President Weah and the Liberian people to the economic integration programme of WAMZ, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the African Continent at large.

“The large Liberian delegation to this event is a testimony of this commitment”, he added.  The delegation, headed by Minister Tarpeh, also included Hon. Nathaniel Patray, Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, Hon. Kou Weh-Dorliaie, Deputy Minister of Justice, Hon. Cecelia Cuffy-Brown, Deputy Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA). Other members of the Liberian delegation were Mr. Chris Wisner, Deputy Managing Director for Operations (NPA), Mr. Michael Ogun, Mr. Gabriel Itoka, Jr, Mr. Musa Kamara, among others.

On the implementation of the ECOWAS Protocols, Minister Tarpeh added that the report shows significant improvements by WAMZ Member States: “All of the Member States have now adopted the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) and have commenced the full implementation of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) by The Gambia, Guinea and Liberia, and the introduction of national biometric identity card in Ghana and Liberia”.

Providing some insights on developments in the Liberian economy, the release quotes the Liberian Commerce Minister as disclosing that Liberia’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in 2017 improved: “Growth increased by 2.5 percent, from negative 1.6 percent in 2016 on the back of increases in all key sectors. The mining and panning sector grew to 28.8 percent (from negative 33.0 percent), and the manufacturing sector to 1.4 percent.” 

Earlier, the Director-General of the West African Monetary Institute (WAMI), Dr. Ngozi E. Egbuna, remarked that progress was made in intra-regional trade flows, naming Liberia as being among best performers.

“Overall, Nigeria emerged the best performer, followed by Ghana, The Gambia, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, respectively”, she stated in her remarks.

She however lamented that at the WAMZ front, the trade profile of the Member States of the Zone remained undiversified, “as Member States export a few raw materials and import several industrial products and food items. Intra-WAMZ trade remained low and poorly documented. There is widespread informal trade in the Zone dominated by food items including livestock, maize, millet and sorghum.”

According to the release, Dr. Egbuna noted encouraging developments were observed, as evidenced by the demonstration of the trade facilitation policy commitment of the Member States of the WAMZ at the zonal, regional, continental and global levels.

“It is worthy to note that in 2017, all the WAMZ Member States had commenced implementation of both the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) and the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET)”, she added.

Also speaking on behalf of the President of ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Dr. Jean-Claude Kassi Brou and the ECOWAS Commissioner of Trade, Customs and Free Movement, Mr. Tei Konzi, a representative noted that regarding the promotion and liberalization of trade in the region, significant progress has been made in consolidating the customs union status of the community through the application of the Common External Tariff (CET) of ECOWAS and the effective implementation of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS).

“On the issues of intra-regional trade and the establishment of a Customs Union, total trade increased by 13 percent from 2015 to 2017”, the representative of the ECOWAS President stated.

Meanwhile, Liberia has handed over the chairmanship of the WAMZ to Nigeria. Following a unanimous decision by participants, Minister Tarpeh handed over the chairmanship to his Nigerian counterpart, the release added.

A final communique was adopted at the end of the forum, the release concludes.

From Nat Bayjay, Minister Counselor for Press & Public Affairs – Liberian Embassy Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria

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