TRADE POLICY REVIEW:

Concluding remarks by the Chairperson

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  • Trade Policy Review: Members of the West African Economic And Monetary Union (WAEMU)

  

The first joint Trade Policy Review of the eight member countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) has allowed us to deepen our understanding of the regional and national economic and trade regimes, as well as their developments since 2011. We are grateful to the Secretariat and the Members under review, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo, as well as the WAEMU Commission, for the comprehensive reports prepared for this TPR. I would also like to thank our discussant Ambassador Didier Chambovey from Switzerland, and the 28 delegations that took the floor for their valuable contributions to this Review.

Members commended WAEMU countries on their macroeconomic performance despite the difficult global economic environment, the challenges posed by increasingly frequent droughts, and in some cases,  problems in the security situation. All WAEMU countries have managed to maintain low inflation and to increase per capita incomes, although these still remain low. WAEMU countries have generally refrained from taking protectionist measures and have continued to remain open to international trade with, and investment from, third countries. Members also appreciated the numerous recent reforms to improve the business environment under the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA), and several of them highlighted the bilateral tax and investment treaties.

Members noted that merchandise exports from WAEMU countries were highly concentrated, both in terms of products and markets, and encouraged diversification. Côte d'Ivoire's agricultural sector was mentioned by some as an example of successful diversification. Participants were of the view that further reforms to transport infrastructure and increased electricity supply should contribute to the diversification efforts, mainly towards industrialization. Members urged WAEMU countries to establish WTO‑consistent SPS regimes based on modern risk-management approaches to, inter alia, avoid outright import bans on products such as meat and poultry. Many Members appreciated the engagement of WAEMU countries in WTO negotiations on, inter alia, fishery subsidies. Several Members called for less distortion in international cotton trade, which affects WAEMU producing countries.

Members congratulated WAEMU countries for their continued efforts to improve their international trading environment, especially through the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA); and they encouraged those who had not yet ratified it to do so. WAEMU countries were also reminded to submit their Categories A, B and C notifications under the TFA and to continue efforts to streamline and automatize trade procedures.

Members noted that the implementation of the ECOWAS CET in 2015, with a fifth band of 35% on some 130 tariff lines, increased nominal and effective protection. It also increased the number of lines on which the applied rates exceed the bound levels for all countries except Guinea-Bissau and Togo. The country-specific flexibilities offered by the new tariff regime during the five-year transition period have been prone to national differences. In addition, many Members mentioned the numerous other duties and charges that further complicated the border tax system, and called upon the countries to rationalize it with a view to achieving full compliance with their WTO commitments. Some Members were of the view that the adoption of a single entry system ("libre pratique") would enhance the smooth functioning of the Customs Union.

Several Members encouraged WAEMU countries to participate in the Agreement on Government Procurement. They commended those WAEMU countries that had accepted the Amendment Protocol to the TRIPS Agreement, and encouraged the other member countries to follow suit. Furthermore, some Members called upon the WAEMU countries to strengthen their intellectual property regimes noting that only one of them had ratified the 2015 revision of the Bangui Agreement.

Noting that all WAEMU countries also participate in ECOWAS, Members called for full harmonization of the trade regimes of the two communities and were interested in learning further about the potential benefits from the Continental Free Trade Area under negotiation. Other areas for improvement by WAEMU countries underlined by Members included compliance with WTO notification obligations, and trade statistics.

WAEMU countries have provided replies to almost all of the 245 questions raised by Members. We look forward to receiving the answers to any outstanding questions within the one‑month deadline, by which time this review will be successfully finalized.

In conclusion, Members commended WAEMU countries on their commitment to maintaining open trade and investment regimes while further integrating regionally. I am sure that WAEMU countries will reflect the results of this Review into future trade reforms to further their regional integration and to enhance their participation in the multilateral trading system.

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