The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States ( ECOWAS ) is looking forward to a more dynamic and flexible rules of origin which takes into account the interests of the economic operators in the region.
This disclosure was made by the Commission’s Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement Mr. Tèi Konzi at the opening of the Three-Day regional meeting of national experts on community rules of origin of ECOWAS in Abuja, Nigeria.
The Commissioner told the national experts that it has become imperative to update the scheme through modifications, as the ECOWAS Commission cannot remain on the sidelines of all the development taking place within the context of the trade environment in which it operates.
According to the Commissioner, the developments which have brought about some changes include the conclusion of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, the advent of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Africa and the Caribbean, West Africa and the European Union as well as the Agreement establishing the African Free Trade Area.
Noting that there has been growing concerns by international trade actors on account of the agreements, Commissioner Konzi maintained that ECOWAS will not rest on its laurels despite the milestones reached with the establishment of the Free Trade Area, the entry into force of a Common External Tariff and the adoption of a Community Customs Code.
Indeed, he stressed that the achievements such as a functional Customs Union requires hard work in order to make it more perfect and sustainable.
He urged the experts to critically examine the draft Additional Act submitted before them and “bring all the possible work to make it an innovative text”
It draws heavily from the international instruments governing trade including the Revised Kyoto Convention, the World Customs Organisation (WCO) Origin Compendium, the Origin Certification Directive, the rules of origin of the EPA, and the rules of origin of the Zone de libre-échange continentale africaine (ZLECAF)
Welcoming delegates from 15-Member States to the meeting earlier, the Director of ECOWAS National Unit of the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr. Musa Nuhu stressed the importance of the gathering for the discussion of economic issues of interest to the region.
Mr. Nuhu who chaired the meeting, said the convergence is coming at a time “we are encouraging Member States to engage more in inter- state trade for the good of the citizens of West Africa”
Speaking in similar vein, the Head of Unit, Trade and Custom of the German development agency- Gesellschaft Für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Ms Amanda Bissong,noted that it is pertinent for the rules of origin to be amended and reflect the changes that have occurred with the adoption of the ECOWAS Custom Code and other trade instruments.
Stressing that the focus should be on improving the efficiency of the scheme, she however said the efforts to promote trade need to be complemented by the necessary political will for effective implementation.
On his part, the head, Free Movement Division of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) Mr. Aboubakar Sidiki Cisse emphasized the benefits of greater collaboration in ensuring the rules of origin are compatible with the fair and beneficial regulations of trade in the region.
The work of the national experts embodying the additional Acts is expected to be presented to the meeting of Directors-General for onward consideration by the Ministers of Finance of the region.