West African Bloc OKs Single Customs Regime Starting 2015

West African Bloc OKs Single Customs Regime Starting 2015

There will be a single customs plan for various West African nations starting in 2015. Leaders of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have just agreed to implement a single customs tariff regime from 2015 in an effort to accelerate economic integration, reports Reuters.

The Common External Tariff is designed to coordinate customs charged on imported goods to the bloc of about 300 million people.

“This is an objective ECOWAS has pursued since its creation 38 years ago and today we have crossed an important stage in the integration of our peoples,” the president of the Ecowas commission, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, told Reuters.

The eight-nation Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA), whose members form part of ECOWAS, have already enjoyed a single-tariff scheme and a shared currency.

ECOWAS groups Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the members of UEMOA – Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Niger and Togo. ECOWAS aims to debut a single currency throughout the bloc by 2020, reports Reuters.

The summit also approved a 1.5 percent levy to finance the activities of the community. This replaces an existing 0.5 percent tax, which leaders agreed to phase in over five years.

According to Ouedraogo, the single tariff regime would kick-start stalled negotiations with the European Union on an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The European Union is West Africa’s largest trade partner.The talks had broken down over the speed at which West African nations were willing to open their market and lift tariff barriers. The two sides were also at odds over an ECOWAS request for compensation for the cost of adjustment to the new trade regime.