By Victoria Ojeme
Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement, ECOWAS Commission Mr Tei Konzi has disclosed that within five years, trade within the sub-region has degenerated to 10 per cent from 12 per cent which is a wake-up call for member states to rise up and address all obstacles.
Konzi, made the disclosure at a two-day ECOWAS Forum for Trade Facilitation Committees held in yesterday in Abuja.
He also noted that a vibrant trade relation among Member States plays a vital role in creating employment and generating wealth as stipulated in article three of the ECOWAS Treaty.
“Trade plays an important role in creating employment and generating wealth. As a result, Trade Facilitation has been at the heart of our regional integration process.
“With the Protocols and Decisions on the Free Movement of Persons and Goods at the cornerstone of our economic integration.
“The overall objective of this 2 day inaugural forum is to update, share and ultimately strengthen the National Trade Facilitation Committees, whilst engaging in the process of establishing the Regional Trade Facilitation Committee (RTFC).
“Which is aimed at coordinating the implementation of the Word Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Trade Facility Agreement (TFA) at a regional level.
“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.
“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.
“Harmonized formalities across regions would reduce business transaction costs, create the necessary condition for the development of regional value chains and be an important investment tool,” Konzi said.
In his remarks, Mr Richard Adebayo, Nigeria’s Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment said that the Forum was timely as bringing Member States together will create an opportunity to discuss challenges and how best to address them.
Aregbesola who was represented by Mr Aliyu Abubakar, Deputy Director Trade of the Ministry said that for Nigeria, trade facilitation is very important and key to achieving already set policy objectives.
He explained that the set objectives cut across achieving the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, the diversification of the economy as well as sustainable Economic growth and developments.
“We take trade facilitation seriously and in line the preparation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement of the WTO, the government of Nigeria has established a National Trade Facilitation Committee with clear mandates.
“That committee has been working seriously to achieve all the policy goals that has been set including the national policy objective of improving the domestic environment as well as meeting our international commitments arising from the WTO TFA agreement.
“We believe that this forum is important to share ideas, synergize and cooperate so that we can collectively promote regional trade and regional integration.