Press releases

Experts urge ECOWAS to strengthen regional integration by reducing non-tariff barriers to trade

15 June 2016
ITC News
  • 73% of firms in six ECOWAS countries face burdensome non-tariff measures (NTMs) on exports and imports within and outside the region
  • 32% of burdensome NTMs faced by ECOWAS exporters relate to regulations applied within the region, half of them being imposed by the exporting country
  • More than half of burdensome regulations encountered in the region are problematic because of the related procedures they imply

(Abidjan) – Trade experts today called on the member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to step up efforts to minimize the burdens that non-tariff measures (NTMs) place on businesses in the region. Meeting in Côte d’Ivoire’s economic capital, Abidjan, the experts highlighted that countries needed to diversify and increase their portfolio of exports, set up trade obstacle alert mechanisms, and standardize technical and regulatory requirements.

Forming the background for the two-day (14-15 June) meeting ―officially opened by Jean-Louis Billon, Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister of Trade, and organized by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) ― was a series of business surveys on NTMs in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali and Senegal, carried out by ITC. These explore and identify how NTMs hinder the smooth flow of goods across sectors and markets.

The surveys found that the majority of obstacles faced by businesses are applied by both home countries and by ECOWAS partners. In fact, in the six surveyed ECOWAS countries, 73% of the firms surveyed indicated facing burdensome NTMs (on exports and imports) both within and outside the ECOWAS region. Around 26% of burdensome NTMs reported by agriculture exporters are faced in their home countries, whereas in manufacturing, 32% of NTM cases recorded are related to obstacles found at home.

For businesses in the manufacturing sector, the surveys found that common obstacles arise in relation to rules of origin and the issuance of certificates of origin – both of which are critical to determine the tariff treatment traded goods qualify for. Meanwhile, in the agriculture sector, conformity with health, safety, and other technical requirements is one of the main obstacles to trade. Conformity assessments include product certification, inspection requirements as well as registration processes.

Commenting on the findings of the NTM surveys, Aicha Pouye, Director for Business and Institutional Support at ITC, said: ‘The average cost of importing a container is 25% higher than the world average, two times higher than in OECD countries and three times higher than in Southeast Asia. Addressing this and other issues related to NTMs is crucial if we are to achieve long-term and sustainable growth across the ECOWAS region.’
‘These surveys on NTMs are a further step towards bringing down barriers to growth across the ECOWAS. Together with the AfDB, ITC will continue supporting the African countries in their efforts to ensure that trade becomes a viable tool in eradicating poverty,’ she said.

Another common finding of the NTM surveys relates to procedural obstacles. They found that many challenges are directly linked to delays and high costs of compliance and clearance procedures, often because local authorities lack modern equipment.

Stefan Nalletamby, the Acting Vice-President Infrastructure, Private Sector and Regional Integration at the AfDB, said that ‘most of the bottlenecks are related to application procedures that hamper directly regional competitiveness and might be a major obstacle to regional integration and economic development in Africa’.

‘African governments have shown great commitment in putting in place clear and well-intended regulations. Now all our efforts will be directed towards the implementation process,’ Nalletamby added.

Pointing to the enormous untapped potential for economic growth in the ECOWAS region, the surveys recommend the streamlining, and where applicable, removal, of NTMs across member states to promote lower trade costs, which in themselves would be a powerful tool to strengthen regional integration.

Please click here to Download the report on NTMs in the ECOWAS


About NEPAD Regional Integration and Trade Department at AfDB - The NEPAD Regional Integration and Trade Department (ONRI) is responsible for driving regional economic integration activities within the African Development Bank to promote regional integration and trade on the continent. In its role, ONRI supports regional infrastructure development; enhances industrialization and trade; supervises the project preparation facility which focuses on preparation of high quality multi-country infrastructure projects; supports the creation of an enabling environment of private participation in infrastructure; as well as implements targeted capacity building initiatives in infrastructure development and trade. ONRI also engages in policy dialogue with regional member countries (RMCs), and regional institutions on technical aspects of regional integration, in line with the five pillars of the Bank’s High 5s vision.

About ITC - ITC is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC assists small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade agenda and the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development. ITC’s NTM programme ensures that the concerns of SMEs about regulatory and procedural trade obstacles are brought to the attention of policymakers and other stakeholders at the national, regional and multilateral level, enabling them to take concrete actions to address these. The programme also contributes to increasing the transparency of NTMs through data collection and dissemination and provides thought leadership through research and analysis. For more information, visit Follow ITC on Twitter: @ITCnews