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Regional Customs Directors-General Meet To Consider ECOWAS Customs Code


The high table

3rd November 2017  . The Directors-General from the fifteen Member States of ECOWAS began their meeting at the ECOWAS Commission headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, on the 23rd of November 2017 to consider the ECOWAS draft Customs Code among others.

The one-day conference which was preceded by a meeting of experts and senior officials, will also consider the report of the Technical Committee on Trade, Customs and Free Movement.

Declaring the meeting open, the ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement, Mr. Laouali Chaibou pledged the Commission’s continued support of a smooth implementation of the regional system with the drawing up of a regional guarantee system in line with best practices.

He stated that the Commission will also work to operationalize the legislative framework of mutual assistance and the exchange of information between customs administrations in order to strengthen the fight against fraud and organized cross-border crime.

According to the Commissioner, in addition to the need for the uniform application of the regional tariff by the ECOWAS Member Countries, it is still necessary to “put in place an institutional mechanism for managing this instrument”

He noted in this regard, that the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) being a dynamic instrument, “should be able to reflect the economic and commercial policy options of both our states and the region over the years”

Commending the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), as well as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for their support of the on-going customs processes,  Commissioner Chaibou disclosed that all the projects tied to a functional customs union that are under way at the level of the ECOWAS Commission, call for the full participation of the Member States.

The Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service Colonel Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd) held that free trade is central to the regional economic development. “As critical regulatory authorities, our participation in the build-up towards regional and continental common markets is therefore the right step forward” He said.

Group photograph of the Directors-General of Customs in West Africa

The Nigerian customs boss told the gathering that as the major implementers of the common policy measures, it is necessary to have a clearer understanding of the general rules and procedures for application of the legislations, if they are well developed and spelt out as guiding codes.

In view of the current vulnerabilities, Col Ali also stressed the need to promote border security alongside trade facilitation. “Our borders are getting increasingly assaulted and weakened by criminal activities of smugglers, drug traffickers, armed bandits and insurgents. These elements can only thrive when there are gaps in our operations” He added.

The Head of Section, Economic Integration and Energy of the European Union (EU) delegation to Nigeria, Mrs Nadia Cannata, described the EU as a close partner of the region in the realization of integration and trade.

She noted the good legal frameworks developed in this regard by ECOWAS as something which have manifested in the adoption of the CET and ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS).

She however suggested that improved growth of intra-regional and international trade will happen when appropriate monitoring and evaluation measures at both regional and national levels are put in place. Added to this, is increased outreach and access to technology and finance by the private sector in order to guard against the slowing down of investment decisions in developing regional value chains.

Other measures highlighted in this regard include diversifying the engagement of stakeholders during policy development and implementation, the removal of technical and financial constraints at the level of the ECOWAS Commission and Member States to implement regional policies and programmes, as well as the clearing of prevalent non-tariff barriers including other duties and charges that impede trade in the region.

Delegates at the 60th meeting of the technical committee on Trade, Customs and Free Movement of Persons had earlier approved the draft code and recommended to the ECOWAS Council of Ministers its submission to the Authority of Heads of States and Government for adoption.

Specifically, Directors-General will also appraise the strategic plan for the consolidation of ECOWAS Custom Union, regional training strategy and interconnectivity as well the recommendations regarding excise duty on tobacco products and the tracking and tracing of same, ahead of the 3rd meeting of the ECOWAS Finance Ministers which comes up on the 24th of November 2017.

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