By Prince Okafor
THE Economic Commission of West African States, ECOWAS, yesterday, said that Nigeria was a major beneficiary of ECOWAS Trade Liberisation Scheme, ETLS, stressing that it controllied more than 40 percent of trade in the region.
The Customs Director, ECOWAS Commission, Aissata Koffi, made this known at a workshop on the ETLS organized by Deloitte in collaboration with the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, NACCIMA.
According to her, “Nigeria is controlling 40 percent of the trading transactions in the region and the first in the ETLS list, the next country following it has 10 percent on the ETLS list. So you can imagine how far Nigeria is benefiting from the ETLS.”
Koffi also expressed the desire of the Commission to see a more robust regional trading. She stated: “It’s important for us to promote our products made in the ECOWAS region, not products coming from outside the region. We want to strengthen our intra-regional trade. They come here to take our raw material and go to produce it for third world countries and bring it back to us. Now we have the knowledge to have it made in ECOWAS.”
She also said that other regions are envying ECOWAS because it has the biggest market and are now trading among themselves, adding, “We have also understood that it’s better for us with the common external tariff that we place among us to trade between ourselves because we have the potential, we have the raw material.”
In his remark, the Director General, NACCIMA, Emmanuel Cobham, said that he hopes that the programme will examine the impact of trade liberalisation on poverty alleviation, adding, “when effectively implemented, the ETLS scheme will improve trade flows among countries, and also, their Gross Domestic Product, GDP will perform better with enhanced economic opportunities, corresponding increase in income, job creation, with attendant reduction of poverty and enhanced development.”
He added that, “It is trite knowledge that the ETLS is a main ECOWAS tool for promoting trade in the West African region, and making it a free trade area. This is in tandem with one of the objectives of the community which is the establishment of a common market. In view of the recent development in the global economy, it is important for the region to embrace intra-regional trade which is currently low and largely informal but with considerable potential for increase, taking into consideration, the population and abundant human and natural resources available.
“As the apex business membership organisation within our clime, and umbrella body for all the regional, state, city Bilateral and Multilateral Chambers of Commerce in Nigeria, we pledge our readiness to support any organisation that may want to take advantage of the scheme to expand their trade within the West African Region,” he added.
The ETLS is the main ECOWAS operational tool for promoting the West Africa region as a Free Trade Area. This lies in tandem with one of the objectives of the community, which is the establishment of a common market through liberalisation of trade, abolition of customs duties levied on imports and exports, and of non-tariff barriers.