Leaders of the West African sub-region have been called upon to embrace multilateral trading systems and enhance participation in negotiations, given the benefits of international trade on African economies.
The Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr Henry Kofi Akpenamawu Wampah, who made the call in a keynote delivered on his behalf at the opening of a Regional Seminar on International Trade, Taxes and Policies in Accra, yesterday, noted that despite the cost and difficulties involved, the African sub-region ought to continually participate in international trade negotiations in order to pursue commercial interests and also protect existing rights.
He added that the prospects of securing the protection of rights under multilateral trading frameworks were better than that under a bilateral arrangement.
Dr Wampah noted that the West African sub-region had been making efforts to scale-up the contribution of trade to the economies of the sub-region, given the potential benefits of trade in ensuring political, social and economic integration.
He said the issue of trade and its impact on economic development in the globalized world had remained controversial, especially within the context of developing countries whose major resources were primary commodities.
"For these trade potentials to be achieved, serious attention has to be given to the challenges ranging from complex trade taxes, other barriers to trade, inefficient transport and communication systems, hindrances at the borders of countries in the sub-region, currency and legal differences as well as language problems," he added.
He said international trade had long been hailed as a key engine of growth and development and that, increasingly, countries had opened their economies to international trade through the multilateral trading system, increased regional cooperation and as part of domestic reform programmes.
Dr Wampah said trade liberalization was generally expected to result in better economic performance due to improvement in resources allocation, as partners were assumed to gain from producing goods and services in which they had comparative advantage.
He expressed the hope that the seminar would provide the needed platform to enhance participants' capacity to ensure good and effective formulation and implementation of external trade policies that would yield maximum benefits to the countries of the sub-region.
In his remarks, the Director-General of the West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM), Prof Akpan Ekpo, said WAIFEM had established collaborative arrangements with world class training organizations and capacity building institutions to ensure best practices in the delivery of its programmes, and as a Centre of Excellence in capacity building.
These organizations, Prof Ekpo said, included the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, Commonwealth Secretariat, Debt Relief International, and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).
He said collaborations had also been established recently with the World Trade Organization (WTO), Institute for Training and Technical Co-operation (ITTC) and the African Policy Centre (ATPC) of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
WAIFEM was established by the central banks of the Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leona in 1996 to build capacity for improved macro-economic and financial management in the constituent member countries.
The mission of the Institute is to develop, on a sustainable basis, expertise in the fields of Macro-economics, Debt and Financial Sector Management among staff of central banks, ministries of finance and economic planning, and other public sector bodies with the core economic management responsibilities.
The week-long seminar, which is being organized by WAIFEM, has been designed to cover a number of key topics such as
International Trade Theory, International Trade Policy, International Trade in West Africa-- Challenges and Prospects, Taxes on International Trade and the Challenges of Common External Tariffs.
The others are ECOWAS and the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs)-- Implications for Economic and Social Development, Regional Trade and Agreements in West Africa, Guide to Negotiating Trade in Services and Modeling Trade Policy.
The rest are Trade Relations, Effective Custom Union in West Africa and Promoting a Regional Common Market and Investment Climate in West Africa.
Source: ISD (G. D. Zaney)