Abuja - The National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) has called for the implementation of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) to boost regional trade among member countries.
Its National Secretary, Ken Ukaoha, made the call in an interview on Tuesday in Abuja.
He said that the non-implementation of the common tariff could lead to the disorganisation of the region.
Ukaoha stressed the need to put necessary measures to ensure its implementation.
"The Common External Tariff, if implemented, can help the region to grow; it can also help in achieving the distribution and redistribution of wealth across the region.
"It can also work towards fast tracking poverty reduction, because you are creating jobs for the people.
"It can also guarantee and help or assist consumer choice; and most importantly, it will help member countries come together and do things as one; it is an open door to common market operations in the region.
"However, if you don’t implemented very well, it can also lead to disorganisation of the region and disappearance of ECOWAS.
"There must be some level of carefulness in the implementation of the CET, the enforcement of the laws, because we are porous, so that we do not allow third parties to benefit, while we lose and then we become a dumping ground, our industries will stifled and die away.
"There must be constant monitoring of the impact of the CET on the economy; the future is watching, history is waiting."
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According to him, before CET, there have been laws and other protocols which have not been able to promote trade in the region.
"ECOWAS has all the necessary legal tools for trade and integration; talking about these laws and protocols, you will find out that we have, before the CET, laws that are able to move businesses round and laws that are able to facilitate business transactions within and across the region.
"Unfortunately, West Africa has still been revolving between 10 per cent and 12 per cent of internal trade.
"CET was adopted last year and implementation started from that year, it is not clear yet how many countries have implemented this and to what extent they are implementing now as it is.
"But I would say that ECOWAS has done a good job by promoting the Common External Tariff adoption because we need to look inwards."
The CET was inaugurated by Heads of States and Governments of ECOWAS member countries for West African nations in 2014.
It is a basic feature of the customs union as a form of economic integration whereby all countries are expected to discard their individual tariff structure with which they trade with third countries.
With CET, the same customs duties, import quotas, preferences or other non-tariff barriers to trade apply to all goods entering the area, regardless of which country within the area they are entering.
All 16 countries within the ECOWAS are expected to commence the implementation of a uniformed tariff on imports which was expected to take effect from January, 2015.
The tariff, set at 35 per cent at most, is expected to modify the rights and obligations of ECOWAS member countries under the CET.