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Ghana To Miss ECOWAS Common Tariffs Deadline
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Ghana will miss the January 2015 deadline for implementing the Common External Tariffs (CET) adopted by member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

That, according to the Finance Minister, Mr Seth Terkper, was because the country had failed to seek parliamentary approval for the new customs regime.

He said the government set up a multi-ministerial implementation committee which had already submitted a memorandum to the Cabinet for onward transmission to Parliament for ratification, an exercise which means some of the country’s customs regulations and laws will change.

“Ghana has not reneged on its commitment to implement the CET, but the January 1, 2015 deadline cannot be met because of parliamentary approval for specific sections of our customs laws. But it’s our goal to expedite action on them to meet the deadline within 2015,” Mr Terkper, who is chairing a meeting of ECOWAS Finance Ministers and Director-Generals of Customs bodies across the sub-region, said in Accra yesterday.

The meeting, which is being attended by all member countries of ECOWAS, follows an earlier meeting of a committee of experts, also in Accra.

It is to evaluate preparations towards the full implementation of the harmonised tariffs regime for the 15-member ECOWAS region.

The CET has been adopted by ECOWAS to replace all tariff bands (system) currently implemented by member states, after seven years of negotiations and fine-tuning among member countries after the process was first adopted in 2006.
What CET means

The CET regime means that the same tariffs will be slapped on an eligible item imported into the ECOWAS region, irrespective of which ECOWAS-member country it first lands in.

It is a vehicle to create a customs union as a complementary condition for the creation of a common market for West Africa.

Under the regime, Ghana’s four-band tariff system will expand to become five bands, namely basic essential goods, primary raw materials/capital goods, intermediate goods, final consumer goods and specified goods for economic development.

Ghana has already conducted an impact study on the incoming regime and found that with the implementation, its current four-band customs regime currently has 6,057 commodity lines that are dutiable.

However, the coming into force of the ECOWAS common tariffs for imports will simplify the commodity lines to 5,889 but reduce the number of commodities admitted under zero per cent tariff rates from 725 to 85.

At the same time, the scope of commodities admitted under the five per cent band would be broadened from 375 to 2,146 under the CET.

This, expert analysis on Ghana indicates signifies a big boost for local industries, as most of the items are mainly basic raw materials for industry that are currently taxed at 10 per cent.

Mr Terkper called on West African countries to be resolute and continue to work together to overcome the challenges that would come with the implementation, since the sub-region had come far with the policy, which would be an important instrument in protecting strategic sectors of their respective economies.

“We should find common grounds in considering the recommendations from the experts to facilitate implementation,” he urged the meeting, and charged member states to rededicate their commitment to the cause of ECOWAS regional integration.
EU support

The European Commission (EC) has supported the customs union of ECOWAS over the years, with Germany earmarking substantial backing for the programme.

The German Ambassador to Ghana, Dr John Ruediger, said his country had, since 2009, supported the CET process, adding that from 2014 to 2019, it had earmarked €22 million to support various activities under trade and customs, monitoring and evaluation, organisational development and peace and security.
Source: Daily Graphic

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