4 and 6 February 2004

Concluding remarks by the Chairperson

See also:
> Press release: Reforms need to aim at diversification of production and exports

This first Trade Policy Review of The Gambia has been fruitful and comprehensive and we now have a better understanding of The Gambia's trade policies and practices. Our discussion has been facilitated by the informative contribution of Honourable Edward Singhatey, Secretary of State for Trade, Industry and Employment, and by his delegation, as well as by the incisive comments by our discussant, Mr. Neil McMillan.

Members welcomed the unilateral reforms taken by The Gambia since the late 1990s. These have substantially liberalized the economy and contributed to real GDP growth rates of over 5% on average over 1998-01. In light of recent policy slippages that have accentuated the vulnerability of the economy, Members encouraged The Gambia to consolidate macroeconomic reforms with a view to promoting private investment and diversifying production and exports in order to achieve its objective of becoming a middle-income country by the year 2020.

Members stressed that The Gambia did not implement any tariff preferences and has fully relied on the multilateral trading system to promote its trade. They shared The Gambia's desire to see progress in negotiations under the Doha Development Agenda. Some Members pointed out that further tariff reform, including reduction of the margins between bound and applied rates, and an increase in the coverage of bound tariffs would enhance the predictability of the tariff regime. Members encouraged The Gambia to implement the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement and to ensure that customs procedures do not generate extra costs for importers.

Members noted that The Gambia's agricultural policy objectives were to increase rural incomes and to achieve food security, and sought clarification about the codification of land tenure and efforts to increase value-added in the sector. They welcomed The Gambia's plan to develop its manufacturing sector for poverty reduction and economic diversification purposes. Some Members mentioned The Gambia's involvement in international trade in diamonds, and urged it to consider participating in the Kimberly Process. Members praised The Gambia for having taken substantial commitments in service subsectors, but urged it to implement reforms to make its policies and practices further match its commitments.

Members also asked questions on other issues, notably: future economic reform programme; internal taxation; standards and SPS; government procurement; free zones; investment incentives; privatization; and protection of intellectual property rights.

Members expressed their appreciation for the responses provided by the Gambian delegation and looked forward to receiving written answers to any outstanding questions.

In conclusion, it is my feeling that this Trade Policy Review has highlighted the commitment of the Gambian authorities to further liberalize their economy. I am pleased that many Members identified ways in which they were providing trade-related technical assistance to The Gambia and have committed themselves to continue assisting it. Nevertheless, I feel it important to call attention to The Gambia's supply-side constraints that still need to be addressed. Further assistance by the international community will help The Gambia to fully integrate into the multilateral trading system and I urge both the WTO Membership and the Secretariat to be receptive to this need.