Press release: Reconstruction efforts to be based on sound
This first Trade Policy Review of Sierra Leone has provided us with a
better understanding of Sierra Leone's trade and related policies and
of the challenges it faces. Our dialogue has been thorough and
comprehensive, stimulated by the full and open engagement of the
high-level Sierra Leonean delegation, as well as the insightful
comments made by the discussant, and the thoughtful interventions by
Members commended Sierra Leone for its economic stabilization and
structural reforms since the end of civil unrest in 2002. They noted
that the consolidation of peace, sustainable economic development and
poverty alleviation remained formidable challenges, as did elements of
governance and certain structural disadvantages.
Members emphasized the importance of trade as a tool for development
and underlined the importance of the Integrated Framework and other
co-operation initiatives. Sierra Leone did not benefit fully from its
WTO Membership as the political situation and its own institutional
capacity constraints did not always allow it to identify and/or
exploit opportunities. Several Members indicated that despite their
direct or indirect contribution in providing technical assistance to,
and promoting trade with, Sierra Leone, progress in its integration
into the multilateral trading system had been slow. Many Members
underlined their commitment to continuing to provide trade-related
technical assistance to Sierra Leone.
Members acknowledged Sierra Leone's efforts to simplify its customs
tariff structure and harmonize it with that of other ECOWAS members
that now apply the West African Economic and Monetary Union's (WAEMU)
Common External Tariff (CET). Members noted that an ECOWAS Common
External Tariff was expected to be in place as of 1st January 2008.
Clarification was sought on the legal status of ECOWAS provisions
vis-Ó-vis WTO priovisions in Sierra Leone's regulatory framework.
Members expressed their appreciation of the fact that all tariff lines
are bound. They noted the use of additional levies and charges, as
well as reference values, for customs valuation purposes.
In the light of its recent economic performance, Sierra Leone was
encouraged to move ahead in implementing structural reforms, including
privatization, to increase infrastructure- and health-related
budgetary expenditures as well as to alleviate poverty.
Members noted the dependence of Sierra Leone on diamonds and
agricultural commodities. Members acknowledged the adoption of a new
Investment Promotion Act and interim rules and regulations for
government procurement. They commended the introduction of a mandatory
certificate-of-origin (Kimberley process) for diamond exports.
Members sought further clarification on:
Macroeconomic policy issues;
inter-regional integration process;
customs valuation and pre-shipment inspection;
technical barriers to trade;
protection of intellectual property rights;
diamond sector reforms;
GATS commitments and services sector liberalization;
issues in financial, telecoms, energy, transport and tourism services;
technical assistance needs and Trade Policy Clinics experience.
Members appreciated the replies provided by the delegation of Sierra
Leone, and looked forward to further responses and clarifications.
In conclusion, I believe that through this Review we have come to a
fuller and better appreciation of the progress made by Sierra Leone in
recent years, and of the development challenges that lie ahead. The
number of advance questions, the active discussion and the level of
attendance indicate the importance attached by Members to this Trade
Policy Review, which allowed both Sierra Leone and participating
Members to improve their understanding on certain policy issues. I
encourage Sierra Leone to pursue the implementation of their reform
programmes, with a view to enhancing the transparency, predictability,
and credibility of its trade regime, and adherence to the WTO
principles. But let me put this into context. Sierra Leone faces real
constraints: Thus, technical assistance from the WTO and other
relevant organizations is essential; Sierra Leone's needs in this
regard have been well identified in the Secretariat report and we
should endeavour to meet them. In addition, trading partners can help
by ensuring that their markets are open to products from Sierra Leone,
and by further exploring opportunities to assist them in fulfilling
their development objectives.