Common tariff to benefit West African economy

The Director-General, Budget Office, Mr Ben Akabueze, said on Wednesday that the implementation of the Common External Tariff (CET) would benefit the West African economy and improve welfare of its citizens.

He made the remarks at the Validation Meeting on the Draft Report on the Situation and Gap Analysis of ECOWAS Common External Tariff Implementation in Nigeria.

Akabueze said the gap analysis was timely and would assist the country to identify areas of success and weakness with a view to re-strategizing for optimum performance.

The director-general appealed to the duo to further assist the country to undertake the study on the impact of fiscal incentives employed in support of sectoral policies.

Akabueze said the policies included waivers, concessions, exemptions and other tariff measures.

He also called for proposed measures for supporting local production that were more transparent and which would facilitate harmonisation at the ECOWAS regional level.

“I humbly request GIZ to equally assist other ECOWAS Member States that have started implementing the CET to strengthen their trade support institutions.

“This will enhance the necessary policies for successful regional trade integration,’’ he said.

Akabueze also commended the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Government through the GIZ, for supporting the realisation of the policy in Nigeria.

Head of Section, Economic Cooperation and Energy, EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr Juan Casla, said the EU supported Nigeria’s CET by strengthening Nigeria’s trade support institutions project.

Casla said that ECOWAS was a growing region of more than 300 million mostly young people which was open for business and urged investors and traders to take advantage of the fact.

“ All this is very good on paper but obviously the reality is much more complicated.

“We know that implementation of such a complex scheme, a complex tariff implies the adoption of legal disposition at a country’s levels in all the different countries.

“It also implies many technical measures in terms of organisation of customs procedures at the borders, adoption of common customs and the likes.

“These things are complex process and that is why it is very important to monitor what is happening and to report on the status of implementation of all these complex measures.

“The fact that we are doing this in Nigeria is very important because whatever works in Nigeria would be easily replicated to other countries in the ECOWAS region.

“We hope the analysis, measures and monitoring system that would be proposed would be submitted soon, so that it can speed up the implementation of CET in Nigeria and in ECOWAS.

International Adviser, Trade Facilitation, Trade Policy and Facilitation Unit , GIZ,Mr Frieder Mecklenburg, said changes in the country’s institutional and regulatory legal level would help surpass CET implementation challenges.

“To bring all these into harmony in a very short implementation period of five years is a major challenge because it requires the involvement of various ministries and agencies.

“However, Nigeria is best positioned in the region; they are in the lead and have moved far ahead; awareness is very high and I am optimistic that they will achieve implementation,’’ Mecklenburg said.