9 and 11 February 2005

Concluding remarks by the Chairperson

See also:
> Press release: Reconstruction efforts to be based on sound policy making

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.

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;

  • investment incentives;

  • national standards;

  • inter-regional integration process;

  • ECOWAS-related matters;

  • customs valuation and pre-shipment inspection;

  • technical barriers to trade;

  • protection of intellectual property rights;

  • privatization plans;

  • 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.