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Meeting on obstacle on free movement of goods under ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS), 11-12 November 2019

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) aims to promote cooperation and integration, with a view to creating an Economic and Monetary Union that promotes economic growth and development in West Africa. In order to achieve this objective, Article 3 of the Treaty provides for the creation of a common market and the trade liberalization scheme adopted by ECOWAS (ETLS) as the first instrument to achieve these objectives.

However, the effective implementation of the scheme by all ECOWAS Member States without exception is still a major challenge. If, at one time, some Member States had reasons not to apply the scheme, in particular the complexity of the rules of origin the cumbersome accreditation procedure, today these reasons cannot be invoked. In fact, in 2018, the ECOWAS Commission adopted an Additional Act laying down ECOWAS community rules of origin. This text itself has corrected the procedures governing the SLE and has also innovated in some topics such as the proof of origin and the procedure of recognition of origin. This adopted ECOWAS text was prepared in collaboration with the WAEMU Commission. In addition, in recent years the ECOWAS Commission has increased awareness and training and also advocacy with Member States through the ETLS Task Force to improve the implementation of the ETLS by the Member States.

Despite these undertakings by the ECOWAS Commission, the finding of non-compliance by some Member States with the ETLS Protocol is persistent. This observation has been underlined by regular evaluations of the functioning of the ETLS and the referrals of the ECOWAS Commission to resolve conflicts often due to non-compliance with the Protocol.

Thus, the 24th meeting of the Administration and Finance Committee in December 2018 gave the Directorate of the Customs Union and Taxation the direction to organize a meeting on these obstacles to the free movement of goods and find a suitable solution to these cases.

The main objective of the meeting was to discuss the proper mechanism to enforce the ETLS texts and to denounce the bad practices related to its implementation in the Member States.

Specifically, the workshop focused on:

(i) Identifying the bad practices related to the implementation of ETLS

(ii) Arranging for the resolution of these conflicts arising from the implementation of the ETLS

(iii) Developing a strategy for resolving disputes over the

The expected results of the workshop were to:

(i) Resolve cases of obstruction in suspension;

(ii) Agree on a single community levy for the community;

(iii) Make mutual assistance between customs administrations functional.

(iv) Reflect on a dispute resolution strategy for the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme.

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