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High Level WTO Team Expected in Liberia

Authorities at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Liberia Revenue Authority say a High Level Delegation from the World Trade Organization (WTO) focused on Liberia’s Post Accession Plan for its accession to the World Trade Organization is expected in the country today.

The delegation which is expected to stay in the country up until June 29, 2016 will identify and support Liberia’s Post Accession Plan, a two-year program to promote trade facilitation, customs reforms, and investment in trade support activities and institutions.

The Ministry of Commerce said, the visit is a part of the standard protocol of accessions to the WTO for Recently Acceded Countries (RACs) that have put together a post accession plan and are mobilizing government and donor resources to support the critical process of putting in place the trade programs that support trade facilitation, customs and investment reforms.

While in Monrovia, the team as guest of the country will be hosted by the Minister of Commerce and Industry and Chief Negotiator of Liberia’s Accession, Minister Axel M. Addy and the WTO Post Accession Steering Committee.

The team, during this critical visit in the post accession process will various stakeholders in the public and private sector. They will present and answer questions on Liberia’s notifications, share lessons learnt from post accession programs, and propose modalities to ensure proper coordination among stakeholders.

On Wednesday, 29 June 2016, the team will engage the core technicians to review Liberia’s notifications documents to be followed by a Press Stakeout at 5:00PM at the Bella Casa Hotel. On July 14, 2016, Liberia will become the 163rd member of the World Trade Organization – that is the standard protocol for full membership, which becomes activated in 30 days after the ratification of Liberia’s WTO Accession Package. This is a milestone for a country that took nearly eight (8) years to join the Multilateral Trading System. Liberia commenced its accession process in 2007 under the leadership of Mrs. Olubanke King-Akerele, the Minister of Commerce and Industry. The process gathered momentum under the leadership of Mrs. Miata Beysolow, the Minister of Commerce and Industry at the time. The government held its first Working Party meeting in 2012. Mr. Addy, Liberia’s current Minister of Commerce and Industry, working under the former Minister Beysolow inherited the portfolio and since has been facilitating the process and leading the negotiations as Chief Negotiator, in consultation with all Government and private sector stakeholders. Under his leadership, Liberia tabled its market access offers on Goods (Tariff using ECOWAS CET), Services, and Rules (Legislative Action Plan). Liberia concluded its 3rd Working Party and all bilateral negotiations in July in accordance with its roadmap to accede in December in Nairobi at the 10th Ministerial Conference (MC10) of the World Trade Organization. The Nairobi Ministerial was the first time a WTO Ministerial Conference was held in Africa and at which occasion the Organization concluded the yearlong celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the rules-based Multilateral Trading System. Liberia held its final Working Party in early October where the final Accession Package was presented to WTO Members for approval ad referendum. The final formal decision was taken at the Tenth WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya.

Under the leadership of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Liberia Revenue Authority, a post accession program, Liberia Post Accession Plan, was developed to support trade related institutions. Executive Order No. 74 was signed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to mobilize government ministries and agencies in an effort to support the post accession program. The Government has held a donor roundtable to support the post accession plan, as well as, a high level legislative engagement event to ensure buy-in from the National Legislature. Liberia’s Accession Package was ratified on Tuesday, 14 June 2016 and the “Instrument of Acceptance” was deposited at the WTO on the same day in Geneva, Switzerland.

The high level WTO National Workshop is an important element of ensuring that there is momentum and progress in order to accelerate the gains of WTO accession and ensure a smooth transition from accession to post accession.

On July 17 through 22nd, the Liberian Delegation will participate in 14th Ministerial Conference of the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in Nairobi, Kenya. The Delegation comprising of members of the Steering Committee will further present the Post Accession Plan to partners for support to its implementation.

It is also very important to indicate that Liberia’s Accession has been supported by the United States, EU, Sweden, the Swedish National Board of Trade (SIDA/NBT), International Trade Center (ITC), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Advisory Center on WTO Law (ACWL), World Bank, WTO, Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), Geneva-based Law Firm of King and Spalding, the Canadian based International Seniors Lawyers Program.

Meanwhile, the WTO delegation is composed of Dr. Juneyoung Lee and Ms. Anna Varyanik, Secretary and Assistant Secretary of Liberia’s Working Party respectively. Both will be joined by the Chief Negotiator of the Republic of Afghanistan, Mozammil Shinwari to engage stakeholders on Liberia’s accession to the WTO.

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