ECOWAS Finance Ministers Meet On Consolidation Of The ECOWAS Customs Union25 Nov, 2017
Abuja, 24th November 2017. ECOWAS ministers of Finance are meeting in Abuja, Nigeria on the 24th of November 2017 to review the implementation of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) in Member States and examine the draft ECOWAS Customs code as well as other instruments relating to the strategic plan and consolidation of the ECOWAS Customs Union.
The ministers are also looking at the issues of Customs interconnectivity, renegotiation of tariff concessions, and a review and validation of the draft regional Supplementary Acts, Regulations and Directives for onward adoption by the ECOWAS Council of Ministers.
They will additionally examine the draft Directives on Excise duty on Tobacco products, Value Added Tax (VAT) exemptions, tracing and tracking of Tobacco products as well as the Institutional Framework for the ECOWAS Fiscal Transition Programme.
The Ministers were assured of the support of their objectives by the ECOWAS Commission’s Vice President Mr. Edward Singhatey while declaring the meeting open.
Vice President Singhatey told the delegates that the effective implementation of trade facilitating instruments such as the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) considered to be at the very heart of ECOWAS economic “requires constant review to ensure that it continues to respond to the changing dynamics of our economic circumstances as a community”
He urged the regional Ministers to bear in mind the overriding importance of the ETLS as an instrument to facilitate intra-community trade, stimulate investment and industrialization while enhance the economic competitiveness of the ECOWAS region.
In the same vein, he stated that the adoption of the CET by the Heads of States and Government in January 2006 marked an important milestone in the West African integration effort due to the fact that the ECOWAS revised Treaty, in line with accepted theory of economic integration, “has made the creation of a customs union, a critical building block for the achievement of an economic union”
He restated his conviction that the adoption and implementation of the ECOWAS customs code in Member States will contribute to the level of professionalism while assisting customs administrations in discharging their ever-increasing responsibilities.
The Vice President stressed the imperativeness of implementation of the CET by all Member States in order to effectively protect and consolidate the ECOWAS regional market just as customs administrations is central to the success of the regional economic integration agenda.
“It is important that customs procedures processes are modernized and simplified so that they do not become obstacles to legitimate trade and oppressive to the very society in which they operate” Singhatey added.
The chair of Session and Togolese Minister of economy and Finance Mr. Sani Yaha opined that the implementation of all the programmes relating to the Customs Union required a flexible and adaptable institutional framework.
Corroborating him, the Minister of Finance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Dr. Mahmoud Isa-Dutse reiterated Nigeria’s unflinching commitment to the success of the ECOWEAS Customs Union.
The Head of Section, Economic Integration and Energy of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Nigeria Mrs. Nadia Cannata highlighted the benefits of integration and common regional regulations to include lower transaction costs for businesses, lower risks associated with investments, expansion of markets, pooling of regional resources, and utilization of economies of scale, among others.
Pledging that the EU would do its part “to incorporate the elements identified in the support that we provide to you” she however maintained that for the programmes to be impactful, care has to be taken to ensure that the private sector and business operators are fully involved while citizens are aware and sensitized.
She also stressed that action is required at both supra-national and national levels and must benefit from regular and strategic dialogue just as policies and regulations must be enforced on the ground and monitored.
It will be recalled that the commencement of the implementation of the CET in January 2015, in accordance with the directive of the Authority of Heads of States and Government, effectively ushered ECOWAS into a Customs Union.