West Africa Finance Ministers adopt new tarrif regime

ECOWASFinance Ministers in the ECOWAS sub-region have endorsed a new region wide tariff regime.

They adopted the common external tarrif March 20, 2013 in Praia, Cape Verde, said the ECOWAS Commission who described the move as a milestone on the road to a customs union of the 15-member bloc.

In a communique, ECOWAS said 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.

It explains that some 5899 tariff lines are covered under the new tariff regime with tariff ranging between zero and 35% for the 130 tariff lines that fall into the category of specific goods that contribute to the promotion of the region’s economic development.

Under the new regime, ECOWAS indicates 5% duty is applicable for 2146 tariff lines under the basic raw materials and capital goods category, 10% for the 1373 tariff lines that qualify as intermediate products category while 20% 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.

According to the communique, the Finance Ministers also agreed on the creation of a 1.5% Community Integration Levy which 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 were said to have 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 Finance Ministers’ meeting was preceded by the 51st session of the ECOWAS technical committee on trade, customs and free movement whose recommendations were considered by the ministers.

By Ekow Quandzie

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