ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS)
The ETLS is a tool for achieving a free trade area. The tool consists of elements such as the rules of origins and other elements of the procedure to benefit from the ETLS.
ETLS is a trade instrument aimed at encouraging duty free trade among ECOWAS Member States. The objective of the ETLS is to liberalise trade by abolishing of customs duties levied on imports and exports and the elimination of non-tariff barriers among member states for the establishment of a free trade area at the community level.
The adoption of a common tariff regime and a common trade policy vis-à-vis third countries are characteristics of the ETLS. ETLS is designed to ensure the free movement of goods, capital and persons and the rights of residence and establishment
The ETLS was first implemented in 1979 with only agricultural products, handicrafts and crude products being allowed to benefit from the scheme. In 1990, however, product list considered under ETLS was expanded to include industrial products.
The evolution of international trade and the adoption of a new agreement on rules of origin by the World Trade Organization, necessitated the need for ECOWAS and UEMOA to adopt and comply with the same rules of origin criteria under ETLS.
The ECOWAS protocol A/P1/1/03 of 31st January 2003 defines the concept of originating products and origin criteria applicable for the free circulation of industrial goods. The Council of Ministers further adopted the Regulation: REG./3/4/02 of 23rd April 2002, which presented new procedure in order to ease the process for approval of industrial products.
This new procedure led to the creation, in each Member State, a National Approvals Committee (NAC) responsible for examining applications for approval of products.
ETLS Company and product approval process
The following are the steps involved in the process:
- An NAC receives application and then approve companies and products that meet the originating product criteria.
- Member State communicates approved companies and products to the ECOWAS Commission.
- ECOWAS Commission to notifies all Member States of the approved companies and products.
- The approved products can then be exported freely within the region.
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