Accra, July 28, GNA - Trade experts from the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Wednesday began a meeting in Accra to draw up a harmonised transitional plan for the establishment of Customs Union by January 1, 2008.
The meeting would also examine the negotiating positions and reports of the member states on the adoption of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET).
The plan would address six key areas, including exceptions to the CET, exemptions from the CET, implementation period, bilateral free trade agreements, special export zones and budget impact of CET adoption.
All 15 ECOWAS member-states have agreed by treaty to adopt the common external tariff aimed to have four broad tariff categories (zero per cent; five per cent; 10 per cent; and 20 per cent), the World Customs Union product nomenclature and valuation system.
Addressing the opening session, Mr Mame Cor Sene, Deputy Executive Secretary ECOWAS, said the adoption of the CET would result in a single tariff system, facilitate the creation of a common market and bring about fair competition among industries within the Sub-Region. "If properly nurtured and managed the ECOWAS CET will enable the region to make significant progress in the economic integration progress," he said.
He said impact studies that had been conducted in various countries showed net revenue gains for the countries after adopting the CET. For example, Ghana would make a net revenue gain of 254.5 billion cedis, representing 20 per cent gain in tariff revenues compared with the performance in 2002.
"The main challenge lies, therefore, in how well we are able to manage the process of adoption," Mr Sene said.
Dr Kofi Konadu Apraku, Minister of Regional Cooperation and NEPAD, said the effective implementation of the ECOWAS CET would anchor the Sub-Region's overall external tariff policy and create credibility for the policy.
Besides, it would also form the basis of creating a larger market for industries in West Africa by taking advantage of the economies of scale in selling to the 15-member states with a population of 234 million.
Dr Samuel Nii Noi Ashong, Minister of State for Economic Planning, said the Region would not be able to survive as a major trading block if the implementation of the various protocols ratified by the Governments remained on the drawing board.