Representatives from trade ministries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the International Trade Centre (ITC), and other trade, customs and regional organizations will meet in Abidjan on 14 and 15 June to discuss ways of removing regulatory and procedural non-tariff’ obstacles to regional trade.
The roundtable, co-organized by the African Development Bank and ITC, will be attended by Jean-Louis Billon, Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister for Commerce; Aicha Pouye, ITC’s Director of Business and Institutional Support, and delegates from the 15 ECOWAS countries.
ITC will present insights on obstacles to regional trade within the ECOWAS bloc drawn from national business surveys on non-tariff measures (NTMs) in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali and Senegal. These surveys, which collectively document the experiences of nearly 2,000 exporters and importers, capture the trade-related challenges encountered at the product and partner country level by companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
NTMs cover measures such as sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards (SPSs), technical barriers to trade (TBTs), price control measures, import and export licensing, inspections, as well as rules determining the origin of goods for the purposes of tariff treatment.
Ms. Pouye said: “The trade landscape of the 21st century is one characterized by low tariffs with the average global applied tariff reflecting around 5% of the cost of trade, while non-tariff measures may account for roughly 30% of international trade costs. It is important to identify these measures and focus on where barriers can be alleviated and regional harmonization accomplished. This will serve not only to boost inter- and intra-regional trade, but to make the region more attractive to investment.”
Commenting ahead of the meeting, Moono Mupotola, Director of NEPAD Regional Integration and Trade Department at AfDB said: “International trade can be a powerful engine for sustained economic growth, generating new job opportunities. Key policy reforms for increased intra-African trade can lead to youth unemployment reduction and stimulate inclusive growth for Africa’s economic transformation.”
“During our discussions, we will work towards setting up a framework and an action plan to alleviate non-tariff restrictions to boost Africa’s regional integration agenda, one of the five pillars of the Bank’s High 5s vision,” she added.
Participants at the roundtable will look at trade integration initiatives in the region; and analyze high priority obstacles to intra-regional trade identified by governments and other regional stakeholders. The six NTM surveys will serve as a basis for identifying key challenges and agreeing on concrete action at the national and regional levels to help address the obstacles as a means to further facilitate regional trade integration.
A roadmap for implementation is expected to be validated and announced at the end of the two-day deliberations.
About NEPAD Regional Integration and Trade Department at AfDB
The NEPAD, Regional Integration and Trade Department (ONRI) is responsible for driving regional economic integration activities within the African Development Bank to promote regional integration and trade on the continent. In its role, ONRI supports regional infrastructure development; enhances industrialization and trade; supervises the project preparation facility which focuses on preparation of high quality multi-country infrastructure projects; supports the creation of an enabling environment for private participation in infrastructure; as well as implements targeted capacity building initiatives in infrastructure development and trade. ONRI also engages in policy dialogue with regional member countries (RMCs), and regional institutions on technical aspects of regional integration, in line with the five pillars of the Bank’s High 5s vision.
ITC is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC assists small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade agenda and the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development. ITC’s NTM programme ensures that the concerns of SMEs about regulatory and procedural trade obstacles are brought to the attention of policymakers and other stakeholders at the national, regional and multilateral level, enabling them to take concrete actions to address these. The programme also contributes to increasing the transparency of NTMs through data collection and dissemination and provides thought leadership through research and analysis.
For more information, visit www.intracen.org/ntm. Follow ITC on Twitter: @ITCnews