The World Trade Organisation (WTO), in partnership with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), held a regional dialogue on Challenges for the Multilateral Trading System in West Africa.
The event which took place in Accra brought together civil society actors, business people, the media and WTO members and observers in the West African region.
Participants were educated on the role of WTO in the international trading system and briefed on the ongoing preparations for the up-coming 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in December this year in Buenos Aires.
The goal of the dialogue is to serve as a platform for in-depth and critical discussion of West Africa’s experiences with multilateral trade regime and its consequences for the region’s social and economic welfare.
The dialogue also covered the implications of bilateral and plurilateral trade agreements.
Speaking on digital economy, Vonai Muyambo, the External Relations Officer, World Trade Organisation, noted that rules that apply to general trade activities also applied to e-commerce but wondered how issues of fake products and fraudulent activities associated with it could be addressed.
She observed that countries are still finding ways to address challenges associated with online shopping such as fake products and security issues with regards to e-payment.
“E-commerce, as easy as it may sound, in practice, comes with practical challenges that need to be addressed,” she said.
In his presentation, Emmanuel Neequaye, Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority said the lack of political interest by Governments of WTO members countries to put the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), high on its agenda has led to delays in constitutional requirements and non-involvement of private investors
“It is believed that the high cost of implementation may be what is deterring most governments from wholly engaging in the TFA’s ratification,” he observed.
He urged governments to fund some of the reforms before they see any evident benefit (increased revenue and trade).
He further advocated for the maintenance of infrastructure including improvement of border crossing facilities.
He added that, there should be dedicated road sector planning and maintenance units as well as funds and equipment to reinforce axle-load regulations with all countries in the region.
To make trade facilitation easier across borders in the region, participants revived conversations on West Africa having a common currency.
Members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), have for some years been working towards a common currency for the West African Monetary Zone to facilitate easy trading.
By Pamela Ofori-Boateng