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.