Trade Negotiations

Multilateral Trade Negotiations (WTO issues)

The Gambia has been a Member of the WTO since 23 October 1996 and was a contracting party to the GATT from 22 February 1965. The Gambia thus applies MFN treatment to all the WTO trading partners but is neither a signatory nor an observer to any of the WTO plurilateral agreements.

The Gambia also benefits from the special and differential treatment provisions applicable to least developed countries under WTO Agreements. Implementation of WTO Agreements by The Gambia and its ability to derive benefits from its participation in the multilateral trading system will require significant investment in developing trade-related institutions capacity. The Gambia's participation in multilateral trade negotiations has been limited by its lack of a Mission in Geneva as negotiations are held on a daily basis.

The objective is to improve market opportunities and support The Gambia’s export development, as well as pursue the elimination of non-tariff barriers in destination markets on goods of export interest to The Gambia, while applying discipline in national regulations that support competitive production. The Gambia also expects flexibilities accorded to developing countries, particularly the LDCs, to facilitate their integration into the global economy and enhance their development.

Regional Trade Negotiations (ECOWAS Issues)

The Gambia is a founding member of ECOWAS, established in 1975 and attaches great importance to regional economic cooperation and integration. The Gambia actively participates in ECOWAS activities at all levels and is committed to the implementation of the ECOWAS protocols and programmes. Government is actively participating in the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) negotiations and in the EPA negotiations between West Africa and the European Union.

On the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET), the Government of The Gambia is gradually harmonizing its tariff rates with the CET. In line with this, Government in 2006, increased its highest duty rate from 18% to 20% for final consumer goods. Following the adoption of the fifth band by the ECOWAS Authorities in 2008, Government in 2009, submitted its list of products proposed for the fifth band as requested by the ECOWAS Commission. The ECOWAS Member States are currently negotiating on products that will be classified under the fifth band.

On free movement of people, The Gambia has abolished entry visas and permits for ECOWAS Nationals and adopted the ECOWAS Travel Certificate in line with the provisions of the ECOWAS protocol on the Free Movement and the Right of Residence.

The Gambia is also fully implementing the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme under which unprocessed goods from the ECOWAS region enter The Gambia duty free. Industrial products that satisfy ECOWAS rules of origin from ETLS certified community enterprises can be exported into The Gambia duty free. Currently 15 Gambian registered companies have been granted approval to operate under the ETLS.

With regards to the ECOWAS Inter-State Road Transit Scheme, Government has appointed the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2006 as the National Surety for the coordination and implementation of the ISRT. Seed fund for the Scheme has also been provided by Government and the Scheme officially was launched in The Gambia in August 2008.

Within ECOWAS, The Gambia is also a member of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ). The objective of the Zone is to establish a common currency among its members (The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone). Presently the target is to achieve the common currency by 2015.

The Gambia is also a member of the "Comité Permanent Inter-États de Lutte contre la Sécheresse dans le Sahel", whose membership comprises Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal. The focal point in The Gambia is the Ministry of Agriculture.

The National Trade Policy also seeks to promote trade between The Gambia and the rest of ECOWAS countries through the effective implementation of the ECOWAS Protocols. Therefore, Government will continue to pursue the creation of the ECOWAS Customs Union and the integration of the Community into an economic union.

EU- ACP Negotiations for EPAs

The Gambia was a signatory to the Cotonou Agreement, which until 31 December 2007 governed bilateral preferences granted by the EU to African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) States. West Africa is negotiating a WTO-compatible Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union to replace the non-reciprocal Cotonou Preferential Trade Regime extended to the ACP countries by the EU. Under the EPA, West Africa and the other ACP regions are expected to also open their markets progressively, though in an asymmetrical manner, to EU exports. It is expected that the implementation of the EPAs would be accompanied by EU-supported measures to accelerate West Africa’s integration process, upgrade its industries and build its productive capacities and competitiveness. This will enable West Africa to take full advantage of the market access opportunities offered by the EU and to further integrate into the global economy.

The Gambia supports the West African position of a development oriented Economic Partnership Agreement which will reflect the development needs of the Region, particularly the small economies such as The Gambia’s. Government has submitted its proposed list of sensitive products as well as the Gambia’s operational plan for an EPA-Development Programme currently being prepared at the regional level.

Wider African Trade

The Gambia is also a founding member of the African Union that succeeded the OAU (OAU was established in May 1963) in 2001. The country is also a signatory to the Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community (AEC) in June 1991. The objective of the Community is to promote regional integration and harmonization within the Continent. AEC provided for the creation of a Pan-African Economic and Monetary Union.

Government will continue to promote ties with other African Countries to provide opportunities for larger market for the country and support unified stance within the AU to strengthen collective bargaining with the rest of the world.

Bilateral Negotiations and Trade

In addition to multilateral and regional efforts to promote trade. Government will continue to pursue excellent political and economic relations with other countries, particularly African countries to promote intra African Trade. This will be with a main objective to increase export opportunities for Gambian exports.