Liberian Legislature Concludes Ratification of WTO Protocol
By Henry Karmo
Monrovia — The House of Representatives which has been under immense pressure to concur with the Senate to ratify the protocol for Liberia’s accession to world Trade Organization protocol has finally ratified the protocol putting the country on the right path to become a member of the WTO.
Foreign diplomats including Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs all recently called on Liberia to ensure that they have ample opportunity to succeed as the country enters its second decade of post-conflict stability.
Membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) will provide a foundation for establishing the rules-based system for growing the economy, attracting foreign investment, and securing that future for the country’s youth.
In the wake of the pressure the House of Representatives to ratify the agreement ahead of the June 15, deadline date for Liberia’s admittance, the body Tuesday concurred with the senate to ratify the WTO protocol.
On Tuesday the joint committee on Commerce and Judiciary presented to the plenary of the House its report on the Protocol recommending passage by the general body.
Last December, the post-war nation became the eighth member of the Least Developed Country (LDC) to join the organisation since 1995, during the Tenth Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Nairobi, after formal approval by the member ministers.
But despite the accession, the post-war nation still had until June 15, 2016 to ratify its Protocol of Accession and become a WTO member; 30 days after it notifies its acceptance to the WTO Director-General.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with FrontPageAfrica recently, Mr. Chiedu said while Liberia’s membership has been sealed, there were still some domestic issues that need to be completed before the country can be officially recognized and benefit from its membership with the trade body.
“As you know, WTO accession is a law based and a road-driven process, the next step is for the legislature, the parliament in Liberia to ratify a protocol, it’s a jargon, protocol on the accession of Liberia.
The Senate on April 21 unanimously voted to successfully pass the act which was sent to the Lower House for concurrence.
But more than a month later, the Act is said to be dangling in the corridors of the lower house as the June 15 deadline nears.
On December 16, 2015, World Trade Center Ministers formally approved Liberia’s membership terms at a special ceremony held at the WTO 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi.
The decision meant that Liberia will have until June 15, 2016 to ratify its Protocol of Accession and officially become a WTO member 30 days after it notifies its acceptance to the WTO Director-General.
On February 5, 2016, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf submitted to the Liberian Senate the Protocol on (WTO) for possible ratification.
The communication was immediately discussed by the Senate plenary from where it was mandated to forward to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs; Commerce, Trade and Industry and Judiciary, Claims, Petition and Human Rights.
Accession Beneficial to Liberia
The Senate, in keeping with its rules, held discussion on the expediency and feasible ratification of the protocol. Members of the joint committee deliberated and scrutinized the said legislation.
Among many things the committee pointed out that the Accession protocol contains Liberia’s commitment on domestic reform, that it entails the enhancement of Liberia business climate to provide a fair transparent and predictable business environment that fosters trade in competitive manner.
The accession and membership into the WTO would grant Liberia immediate access to benefits from the WTO global system which lowers trade barriers through negotiation and applies the principle of non-discrimination resulting in reduced costs of production because imports used in production are cheaper; and reduced prices of finished goods and services, and ultimately a lower cost of living.
Under WTO rules, once a commitment has been made to liberalize a sector of trade, it is difficult to reverse. The rules also discourage a range of unwise policies.
For businesses, that means greater certainty and clarity about trading conditions. For governments it can often mean good discipline.
The accession would also make it difficult for government to enforce business Polices out of fear of violating the WTO agreements.
Once Liberia is officially declared a WTO member, the prices consumers pay for food and clothing, necessities and luxuries, and everything else in between, will be affected by trade policies.
After they have ratified it – and they have to do that before the end of June, in fact before the middle of June, by the 15th of June they have to and after the parliament ratifies it, the President or the Foreign Minister will sign the instrument; it’s called, the instrument on the acceptance of the protocol of accession of the protocol of Liberia and it will be deposited here.”
Liberia is the only country in ECOWAS that has yet to become a WTO Member. This places it at an economic disadvantage compared to its neighbours both for regional and international trade.
Commerce and Industry minister Axel Addy paid homage to all those who helped speed up the process.
“Thanks to the cooperation and coordination of the Executive and Legislature and dynamic partners like US, EU, Sweden, WTO, ITC, EIF, UNCTAD and World Bank, ACWL, King and Spalding, International Seniors Lawyer Program from Canada and talented Liberians technicians who worked on this over the last 7 years.
It’s time now to implementation to prepare the nation for better business for Liberian to pursue the big dreams and make Liberia better for all.”