Liberia, others Must Ratify African Continental Free Trade Area -ECOWAS Parliament Strongly Recommends

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A recent meeting of the ECOWAS Parliament in Benin has called for Liberia, Benin and Nigeria to advocate at their respective national assemblies for the acceleration of the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA), a pact that creates the largest free trade area in the world measured by the number of countries participating. The pact connects 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at US$3.4 trillion.

The Delocalized Meeting of the Joint Committee on Trade, Custom and Free Movement, Macroeconomic Policy and Economic Research, Public Account, Administration, Finance and Budget, held in Benin from 3-7 November 2020, was co-chaired by Lofa County Senator Steve Zargo, a member of the ECOWAS Parliament. Thematic discussions on the meeting focused on “African Continental Free Trade Area Prospects of its achievements within a context of cross border threats (Terrorism and Insecurity, Pandemics and Protectionism)”.

Recommendations to Member States

Following five days of deliberations, the ECOWAS Parliament resolved that member states should endeavor to fulfill their obligations under Protocols and Agreement, and that they put in in place effective mechanism for the archiving, cataloging and tracking of International instruments they are obliged to implement and ensure their actions are consistent with such obligations.

The recommendations to member states also requested for them to endeavor to ratify and deposit their instrument of ratification before 1 January 2021 which is the take-off date of the AfCFTA. Member States were also called on to conclude their National Implementation Strategy on AfCFTA in consultation with the ECOWAS Commission; and that indicators should be developed at the National level to monitor the implementation of AfCFTA in consultation with the ECOWAS Commission.

Recommendations to the ECOWAS Commission

The ECOWAS Parliamentarians also called on the ECOWAS Commission to establish an effective mechanism for the archiving, cataloging and communicating of ECOWAS Community instruments that Member States are obliged to observe and embark on regular advocacy in conjunction with the ECOWAS Parliament to ensure their application.

Under this specific set of recommendations, the parliamentarians requested that indicators should be developed at the regional level to monitor the implementation of AfCFTA, in consultation with Member States; and that the ECOWAS Commission immediately concludes their Regional Implementation Strategy on AfCFTA, in consultation with Member States and submit for the consideration of the ECOWAS Parliament.

The ECOWAS Commission as coordinator of the ECOWAS Member States and together with other RECs, members of the Continental Task Force for the AfCFTA negotiations, was also mandated to bring together Parliamentary bodies in Africa for sensitization and information sharing on the AfCFTA.

The Parliamentarians as well called on the ECOWAS Commission to involve Parliament at the conception of policies and programs to enable them understand and facilitate their passage at the national level.

Recommendations to Parliament

The meeting also requested that the President of the Commission include the status of implementation of the AfCFTA in his State of the Community address; and that Benin, Liberia and Nigeria advocate at the National assemblies for the acceleration of the ratification process of the AfCFTA agreement. The instruments of ratification were also requested to be deposited by Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau.

The Parliamentarians were requested to continue to sensitize stakeholder, fellow Parliamentarians and constituents on the opportunities of the implementation of the AfCFTA Agreement while advocating for their respective national governments to mitigate potential challenges. “Parliament should organize an annual forum for this purpose,” the meeting participants recommended.

“Where bilateral Agreements are brought for ratification in respective national assemblies, ECOWAS Parliamentarians in line with Art. 85 of the ECOWAS treaty and in their dual capacity should seek confirmation from the ECOWAS Commission before considering them,” the members stated, while calling on country delegations of Parliamentarians to ECOWAS Parliament to report on the status of implementation of the AfCFTA in the Country Reports submitted during Sessions.

The meeting members also called for adoption of a resolution to commend and encourage the Republic of Benin as the only country that did not shut its borders during the Covid 19 pandemic.

Concluding, the ECOWAS Commission parliamentarians and meeting participants requested the institutionalization of a consultation framework between Parliament, civil society and the private sector.

According to the World Bank, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement will create the largest free trade area in the world measured by the number of countries participating. The pact connects 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at US$3.4 trillion. It has the potential to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty, but achieving its full potential will depend on putting in place significant policy reforms and trade facilitation measures.

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