Opposition Party Urges House of Representatives to Act On WTO Protocol

Monrovia — Ahead of the June 15 deadline, Liberia’s opposition Liberty Party is urging the members of the national Legislature to act upon the Protocol of Accession of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“This call is for the Legislature to exercise its Article 34 Constitutional duty to ratify Treaties, Conventions and such other International Agreements negotiated or signed on behalf of the Republic.

Of course, the Legislature is also obliged to regulate trade and commerce with Liberia and other nations, the party said in a statement signed by Acting Chairman Benjamin Sanvee.

The LP added that it is against this background that Members of the Legislature are implored to act in the interest of our country.

The Liberty Party statement comes just days after the United States government piled pressure on the lower house of the national legislature to act on the protocol before the deadline passes.

“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 neighbors both for regional and international trade. As the June 15 deadline approaches for the lower house to ratify the country’s WTO accession package – Liberia must now ratify its accession agreement reached after nearly 10 years of negotiations with the WTO and trade partners”, said Dr. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Affairs.

The Lower House snail approach comes against the backdrop that Liberia has concluded all arrangements and met nearly all the requirements to ascend to the WTO but the country’s final accession.

The Liberian Senate has already ratified the protocol and forwarded to the House of Representatives for concurrence but the House of Representatives is yet to hold public hearing or discuss the protocol, despite persistent calls from stakeholders for the body to act fast to be in line with a June 15 deadline.

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 still 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.

President Sirleaf on February 5, 2016, 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.

After the wok of the Senate Committee the Plenary of the Senate ratified the protocol and forward to the House of Representatives for concurrence.

Since the protocol was sent to the House of Representatives, the body is yet to act and FrontPageAfrica has learned that missing the June 30 deadline could be costly for Liberia as international stakeholders, realizing the benefits that could come Liberia’s way invested heavily in the process to enable Liberia to become a full WTO member.

The Lower House is also under pressure from the European Union, particularly Sweden which has reportedly invested some US$7 million in the process will not take it lightly, what is supposed to be the signal that Liberia is committed to a business climate that is transparent and predictable.”

Some US$90 million has been raised to support the WTO Enhanced Framework support to countries like Liberia’s WTO accession bid.

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