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17.06.2004 General News

Minister opens ECOWAS Protocol workshop

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Aflao, June 17, GNA - Dr. Kofi Konadu Apraku, the Minister of Regional Co-operation and NEPAD (MRCN) said the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) and the protocol on the Free Movement of People, Goods and Services (FMPGS) remain the two cornerstones for the attainment of integration in the sub-region.

He cautioned that the integration dream by leaders and the people in West Africa will never be realised, if the current lukewarm approach to the implementation of the ECOWAS protocols, particularly the ETLS and FMPGS by member-states did not change now.

Dr. Apraku said this when he opened a day's workshop on the ECOWAS Protocols on FMPGS and Right of Establishment, organized by his ministry for border operatives on Thursday at Aflao.

Personnel from the Ghana Police Service, Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS), Freight Forwarders and allied agencies took part in the workshop, aimed at sensitising them on the new review of the sub-regional integration scheme arrived at by sub-regional Heads of States and the World Bank President in March, this year in Accra.

Aspects of the ECOWAS Integration Scheme discussed include - ETLS - products and procedures, the ECOWAS Brown Card Scheme Contribution to the Development of Regional Trade, FMPGS- Right of Residence and Establishment, CEPS and Trade Facilitation, Police and Crime Combating. Dr. Preku has therefore called on ECOWAS members-states and citizens to fully embrace the integration concept, describing it as an efficient tool for overcoming the constraints imposed by the nature and size of individual national markets particularly in developing economies.

The Minister expressed regret that despite the signing and the ratification of the ECOWAS protocols, there are still problems relating to their implementation as a result of some member-states' inability to put them into action, leaving several bottlenecks in the trade corridors in the sub-region.

He tasked citizens to make a choice for economic development by avoiding conflicts so as to catch up with the rest of the world to end the marginalisation of the African continent by others who regard Africans as a people unprepared for development.

The Minister appealed to the Security personnel at the frontier to remain diligent in their works to avoid impeding trade growth in the region.

Mr. Linus Koffie, the Ketu District Chief Executive (DCE) said with trade remaining a tool for poverty reduction as well as economic and political power in the world, it is important that West Africans get committed to the integration concept to enhance economic growth.

He noted the that intra-West African trade is fraught with cumbersome and repressive custom procedures with goods often subjected to rigid border formalities, saying there is the need to copy the examples of the European Union.

Togbui Amenya Fiti V, Paramount Chief of the Aflao Traditional Area who chaired the workshop said Aflao remains an important trade corridor for both Ghana and the sub-region for which reason personnel manning should be fully prepared through similar workshops, to carry on the task.