By: Timothy T. Seaklon
The Government of Liberia (GOL) yesterday launched two major trade policy documents aimed at ascending the country to the membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO). President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf launching the two documents namely, the Liberia National Trade Policy and the Liberia National Export Strategy and said the two instruments will propel the country in properly integrating into the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS trade zone and make Liberia a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The Liberian leader said the two instruments will also open opportunity for Liberian Businesses in West Africa and strengthen the export of the country’s resources such as rubber, cocoa, palm oil fisheries and other major exportable goods.
Speaking at the second Micro-Small and Medium Enterprises Conference (MSME) and Trade Fair held in Monrovia yesterday, President Sirleaf stressed the importance of the two instruments and also proposed the National Small Business Act which will provide Liberians, especially women, a serious procurement right.
“We will pass this act and the Minister of Commerce will enforce it and we will also open the Liberian Market Place where ‘made in Liberia products’ will be available and the Minister of Commerce is to open a website for the market place that can be reached at Liberianmarketplace.com,” President Sirleaf told the over 500 Liberian SMEs and international partners that had gathered at the conference.
The Liberian leader, touching on the importance of the MSME Conference said the success of MSME is fundamental to the growth of any economy with Liberia being no exception, noting that it is a major way for job creation.
President Sirleaf expressed the hope that the conference will produce the requisite result for the expansion and development of Liberia’s MSMEs saying, “This conference is also intended for the Liberian MSMEs to govern on how we can serve you.”
She congratulated the Ministry of Commerce and its partners for organizing the conference especially the international Finance Corporation (IFC, the Government of Japan, the International Trade Center (ITC) USAID for their sponsorship of the second MSME Conference 2014. President Sirleaf expressed joy that this year’s MSME conference will project the agro-business.
Also speaking at the conference, the Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, Ms. Arancha Gonzalez, noted that when Liberian Entrepreneurs succeed Liberia will prosper, saying, “We know that Liberia Entrepreneurs face problems with access to finance, capacity building and investment. ”
Ms. Gonzalez who disclosed that Liberia is the only West African country that is not a member of the WTO pledged the ITC support in helping Liberia overcome these problems as well as the country’s integration into the ECOWAS trade zone and its accession to the WTO.
The Country Representative of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Mr. Frank Ajilore and the United States Ambassador to Liberia Madam Deborah Malac also pledged their support in the development of Liberian MSMEs noting that SMEs are serious engines of economic growth everywhere.
Making remarks earlier, Commerce and Industry Minister, Mr. Axel Addy, said most significant employment potential in Liberia is with small and medium size enterprises, providing two third of all formal jobs in developing countries and up to eighty percent in low income countries.
He expressed confidence that with improvement in the legal and regulatory reform, building linkages and skill and knowledge of Liberia’s MSMEs, the journey that lies ahead will not be rocky.