The Ministry of Commerce and Industry is spearheading the Government of Liberia’s goal to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Liberia is currently an “Observer” and seeks to become a full WTO Member.
Liberia submitted its application (Memorandum of Foreign Trade Regime-MFTR) in 2007 under the leadership of H.E. Olubanke King Akerele, then Minister of Commerce and Industry. After seven years of work with technicians across several ministries and agencies and several studies and stakeholder engagements, in May of 2014, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in a letter to the Director General of the WTO, Roberto Azevedo, expressed Liberia need of assistance to fast track its accession’s process in time for MC10. She also appointed the Minister of Commerce as the Chief Negotiator. The additional technical work commenced with the support of SIDA/NBT, ITC, UNTAD, ACWL, World Bank, EIF, and King and Spalding Law Firm. Subsequently, Liberia’s WTO Market Access Package tabling its offers was submitted in October of 2014.
Several meetings were scheduled as per the comprehensive roadmap to fast track the Accession for 2015 during the MC10 meeting when the WTO will celebrate its 20th Anniversary in Nairobi, Kenya. However, given the health crisis, those working meetings were put off to January. The first of several critical meetings (Pulse Checks, Technical Working Sessions, Bilateral Negotiations) that will lead to conclusion on bilateral negotiations and the drafting of the Factual Summary and Draft Working Party Report is currently underway in Geneva with the Liberian delegation of lawyers, tariff and services professionals from the Ministry of Commerce, the Liberia Revenue Authority and the Law Reform Commission.
Liberia Accessions Package include Offer on Goods (Tariffs) which is based on ECOWAS CET (Common External Tariff and Customs Union) and Offer on Services which is a conservative package that includes Professional Services (Legal Services, Accounting Services, Taxation Services, Architectural Services, Engineering Services, Integrated Engineering Services, Medical and Dental Services, Veterinary Services, Services provided by Midwives, Nurses, Physiotherapists, and Paramedical Personnel; Computer and Related Services; Research and Development Services; Real Estate Services); Communication Services; Construction and Related Engineering Services; Distribution Services; Educational Services; Environmental Services; Financial Services; Health Related and Social Services; Tourism and Travel Related Services; Recreational, Cultural and Sporting Services, and Transport Services.
These sectors were selected based on several years of consultation with various sectors’ stakeholders and research conducted to inform the selection process. They also represent sector for critical job creation opportunities or those in dire need of private sector investments. Sectors already liberalized but in need of major private sector investment were also included.