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ECOWAS calls for strengthened capacity to stem COVID-19

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• Says trade facilitation is key to minimising regional disruptions 
• Endorses Okonjo-Iweala as DG of World Trade Organisation

The Heads of National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs) in Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member states have called for the strengthened capacity to combat the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, by facilitating the movement of required essential goods in the region.

According to them, trade facilitation is vital to minimising the disruption of global and regional supply chains, which are essential to ensuring food security, as well as the supply of medical products needed to fight the pandemic. 
 
Speaking during a virtual meeting, the experts, stressed the need for accelerated establishment of the Regional Trade Facilitation Committee (RTFC), saying it was vital at a time when many countries have closed their borders in order to control the spread of COVID-19.

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The experts noted that the RTFC is aimed at enhancing the coordination and monitoring of all international, regional, and national trade facilitation initiatives.
 
In his remarks, Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement, ECOWAS, Konzi Tei, said the NTFC is well positioned to play the critical role in ensuring that the trade recovery and resilience needs for the Community, are met. 

Already, at the regional level, the ECOWAS Heads of State & Government had on the 23rd of April, appointed President Muhammadu Buhari, as the regional champion on COVID-19, with the support of three Ministerial Committees on Health, Finance, and Transport and Trade.  

At the national levels, measures taken by Member States during the pandemic, included closure of land borders and airports, establishment of high level COVID-19 response committees, regular inter-agency coordination and collaboration, simplifying procedures, reducing time to clear, as well as temporary duty relief for essential goods.

Meanwhile, ECOWAS Authority of heads of state and government has endorsed Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the position of Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for a period of four years starting from 2021 to 2025.

They noted that the Federal Republic of Nigeria has formally nominated her for the position and acknowledged the strong academic and professional background of Okonjo-Iweala and her very large experience in national affairs as Nigeria’s Finance Minister from 2003 to 2006 and from 2011 to 2015 and briefly as Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister in 2006.

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They further acknowledged her long years of managerial experience at the top echelons of multilateral institutions, her established reputation as a fearless reformer, her excellent negotiating and political skills, her experience of over 30 years as a Development Economist with a long standing interest in trade, her excellent academic qualifications, her positions as Managing Director World Bank and currently as Board Chair Gavi and African Union special Envoy to Mobilize Financial Resources for the fight against Coronavirus pandemic.

ECOWAS noted that since the creation of the WTO on January 1, 1995 which is a successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) established on January 1, 1948, no African has assumed the position of Director-General of the Organisation.

They added that the communication by the Chairman of the General Council of WTO announcing the commencement of a process of the appointment of a new Director-General of WTO with the opening and closing dates of nominations set as June 8 and July 8, 2020 respectively. They therefore call on other African countries as well as non-African countries to endorse her candidature.

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CoronavirusCOVID-19ECOWAS
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