ECOWAS ministers meet on key issues
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
A draft decision to modify the regional Common External Tariff from a four-band structure to five bands and which will allow Member States to increase their peak tariff on imported goods from 30% to 35 % is part of many fundamental issues that ministers from the sub-region will look into during the mid-year ECOWAS Council of Ministers which opened in Abuja yesterday, Tuesday 26th May, 2009.
The four-band CET of between 0 and 20 percent for go ods imported into the region was approved in January 2006 by the Heads of State as part of the process of creating a common market by extending the applicability of the existing CET for the eight countries of the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA) to the other Member states. A fifth band of 35 per cent was added during the subsequent process of harmonizing the regional CET and a joint committee of the Technical Committee on Trade, Customs and Free Movement will meet later to undertake the process of reclassification to determine the goods that will qualify for this agreed new peak tariff.
This sixty-second meeting will also adopt a draft directive on the harmonisation of the legislations in Member states on the Value Added Tax (VAT) and Excise Duties as well as the draft directive on the guiding principles and policies for the mining sector and an action plan for its implementation.
Also for adoption by the ministers are the ECOWAS Labour Policy and Plan of Action, the policy on the protection and assistance to victims of trafficking in persons and the implementation strategy of the regional action plan against illicit drug trafficking, organised crimes and drug abuse in West Africa. Included in the package for the consideration of the ministers is the operational plan proposed by the Commission and the mechanism for monitoring and evaluation.
The ministers will also consider the interim report of the president of the Commission, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, who welcomed them to Nigeria during yesterday's opening session, for the first six months of 2009, the 2008 final report of the Financial Controller and the report of the preceding meeting of the Administration and Finance Committee, a committee of experts from Member States who make recommendations for the consideration of the ministers.
In view of the importance of the matters before the Council, the Nigerian minister of Foreign Affairs, Ojo Maduekwe, declaring the session open, said "we need to re-direct our energy away from increasing the bureaucracies of our institutions to integration infrastructures". He pointed out to the ministers that there is need to register concrete and visible achievements and warned that the "increased hugging of sovereignty could lead to the hugging of sustained poverty". The ministers' meeting is in continuation of the mid-year statutory meetings of the Commission that will ultimately culminate in the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Community scheduled for 22nd June 2009 in Abuja. The Gambia is represented at this meeting by the SoS for Trade, Employment and Industry, Abdou Colley.
Author: by Kojo In Abuja, Nigeria