Accra,- Come January 1st, 2022, ECOWAS countries would join the World Customs Organisation with a stronger and more harmonised Custom Union, with the Migration from Harmonized System 2017 (HS2017) to Harmonized System 2022 (HS2022).
This was one of the major outcomes from the Sixth Meeting of ECOWAS Ministers of Finance in the city of Accra held on November 12.
A communique issued at the end of the Accra Meeting said the Ministers reviewed and validated the draft text on the various supplementary Acts and Regulations including the Acts Community levy, Acts on Community transit guarantee mechanism, texts relating to the consolidation of ECOWAS Customs Union, among others, as recommended from the just concluded Directors General of Customs meeting in Accra.
It said these approved recommendations would be presented at the next Council of Ministers in December, 2021, for adoption and further implementation in member States.
“With the implementation of the Common External Tariff (CET) in 14 ECOWAS member states and Mauritania and the advent of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) it has become imperative to review other equally important trade facilitation and Customs instruments that will make the ECOWAS region a strong and economically competitive community,” the Communique stated.
It said the ministers also reviewed the status and level of implementation of the recommendations from the Fifth Meeting of ECOWAS Ministers of Finance.
Commissioner Konzi Tei of ECOWAS Trade, Customs, and Free Movement, in his welcome address, emphasized on the importance of the revised additional Act setting the conditions, modalities of application, monitoring and management of the ECOWAS community levy, which was coming 25 years after its adoption, in responds to concerns expressed by member states on some fundamental provision giving rise to divergent interpretations or to an absence of details in certain articles of the said protocol.
Mrs Abena Osei-Asare, a Deputy Minister of Finance who represented Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, the Minister of Finance for Ghana, and on behalf of the President of Ghana and Chair of ECOWAS Authority, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, welcomed all participants to the city of Accra and appreciated the high level of participation despite the challenging traveling across the region, which was due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
She commended the Commission for the timely meeting, which sought to address pertinent challenges in the interpretation and implementation of the Community Levy Protocol, as well as putting in place instruments to support, enhance the fluidity of intra-community trade, and strengthen the ECOWAS Customs union and promote intra-community trade in “made-in-ECOWAS” goods among others.
Mr Massimo Mina, Head of Cooperation European Union’s delegation in Ghana, said beyond trade and investment, West Africa had become a strategic region to Africa, Europe and the world as a whole.
With the coming into force of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), the entire continent was primed to become a free trade area, “we acknowledge the leadership of the ECOWAS region in the negotiation process and expressed the readiness of the EU and other development Partners in supporting the integration efforts of ECOWAS and its Member States.”
Mrs Halima Ahmed, the ECOWAS Finance Commissioner, who represented Dr Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, the President of ECOWAS Commission, stressed the need to strengthen regional economic cooperation and integration in order to harness the resources of Member States for the benefit of all citizens.
Mrs Ahmed observed that the challenges with the implementation of the Community levy protocol had adversely affected the capacity of the Community to carry out its responsibilities, hence the need for its revision.
She further urged the Community to leverage on the benefits of information and communication technology, to reform the various community instruments and impact on the cross-border movement of goods in West Africa and also promote trade in locally made products to stimulate economic growth and development in the region.
Aside from the Ministers of Finance from member states, the Directors General of Customs of ECOWAS member states, Experts from the customs and Industry/Trade/Finance experts across the ECOWAS member states, Mauritania, ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions were all expected to participate at the meeting.
Source: Ghana News Agency