ECOWAS MINISTERS OF FINANCE ADOPT REGIONAL COMMON EXTERNAL TARIFF
ABUJA, Nigeria, March 22, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Regional ministers of finance on Wednesday, 20th March 2013 in Praia, Cape Verde endorsed a new region wide tariff regime for West Africa in another important milestone on the road to a customs union of the 15 ECOWAS Member States.
The five band tariff regime, subject of ten years of internal negotiations driven by the technical committee of the Commissions of the ECOWAS and the eight member West African Economic and Monetary Union(UEMOA), was modelled on the UEMOA tariff regime following the 2006 decision of Heads of State And Government of the region.
Some 5899 tariff lines are covered under the new tariff regime with tariff ranging between zero and 35 per cent for the 130 tariff lines that fall into the category of specific goods that contribute to the promotion of the regions economic development.
Under the new regime, five per cent duty is applicable for 2146 tariff lines under the basic raw materials and capital goods category, 10 per cent for the 1373 tariff lines that qualify as intermediate products category while 20 per cent duty is reserved for the 2165 tariff lines that fall into the category of final consumer products.
The ministers agreed that the concerns expressed by some Member States such as the treatment of raw sugar, and the request for special treatment for Cape Verde because of its location and vulnerabilities should be addressed within the framework of trade defence measures.
They also agreed on the creation of a 1.5 per cent Community Integration Levy whose scope and operationalisation would be the subject of further regional reflection as part of the mechanisms to enable the region cope with the challenges of implementation of the new tariff regime.
The levy will replace the two existing community levy regimes in the region comprising the ECOWAS Community levy and the counterpart Community Solidarity levy for the UEMOA.
The replacement will help ensure uniformity in port charges in compliance with the requirements of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
In order to ensure effective implementation of the new CET, the ministers urged the ECOWAS Commission to expedite the finalisation of the trade defence and other support measures.
The Commission was also directed to expedite the finalisation of the taxation of pharmaceutical products by striking a balance between the need to stimulate local production capacity and ensure the availability of drugs to meet the health needs of the region's citizens.
The ministers of finance meeting was preceded by the one day 51st session of the ECOWAS technical committee on trade, customs and free movement whose recommendations were considered by the ministers.