The discussion, which centred on issues of mutual interests, included transit trade, the establishment of a tripartite cooperation framework, trade in cashew and other agricultural produce, and reactivation of the Joint Trade Committee meetings established under the Trade and Transit Cooperation Agreement signed between the Gambia and Senegal in 2020.
On Tuesday, M. Fofana received the Trade Minister, who was joined by Mr Mustapha Yarboe, Permanent Secretary, Office of the President; senior officials of MoTIE; and the Chief Executive Officer of GIEPA at his office at Diamniadio in Dakar, Senegal.
Speaking to the press after a closed door meeting, Hon. Joof thanked his counterpart for the warm welcome accorded him and his delegation. He described Senegal and The Gambia as one people that have a lot in common, especially socially and culturally.
This strong relationship, he went on, is being manifested by President Adama Barrow and President Macky Sall, who are not only friends but also brothers. “They both demonstrated this special relationship by working closely with each other in many areas to strengthen the brotherly and friendly relationship between the two countries,” he stated.
Therefore, Minister Joof affirmed their role is to further cement this strong and brotherly working relationship. “I believe that through cooperation and frequent consultations between our two ministries, we can achieve our common objectives of promoting trade between the two countries,” he noted.
On Reactivation of the Joint Trade Committee meetings
Hon. Joof reminded his counterpart that MoTIE and the Ministry of Commerce of Senegal signed a Trade and Transit Cooperation Agreement in 2020 to facilitate trade and transit trade of goods through the territories of both countries.
As part of the implementation modalities of the agreements, he disclosed, a Joint Trade Committee, co-chaired by the Ministers of Trade of both countries was established under the agreement.
The objectives of the Committee, he explained, are to monitor and review the implementation of the agreement and to discuss to address problems and bottlenecks that affect trade and transit trade between the two countries.
Given that this is an important framework to strengthen bilateral trade cooperation between both countries, Minister Joof requested the reactivation of the Joint Committee and a regular meeting, as specified in the agreement to discuss trade and transit issues.
He described transit trade as a key activity for both countries, and therefore, it is imperative for them to have a platform where they can discuss matters relating to transit trade.
The objective, he said, is to ensure that goods transiting through their countries are facilitated for smooth passage in accordance with ECOWAS Protocol and the international transit rules to enable easy access to third countries.
ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS)
Minister Joof highlighted the challenges that ETLS certified companies faced in accessing the Senegambian market and requested collaboration between the two ministries to facilitate the process. He therefore underscored the importance of ensuring that information on ETLS products is available at the border posts to ease the movement of goods between the two countries.
Trade in Cashew and other Agricultural Produce
According to Hon. Joof, the transportation of agricultural produce such as cashew, groundnuts, sesame and other horticultural products sourced within the sub-region needs some element of facilitation.
However, he said that given the proximity between The Gambia and Senegal, the most cost-effective mode of transportation for these commodities is by road transportation. Therefore, he said, the Government of The Gambia solicits the cooperation of Senegal to help address their concerns with regards to the measure taken on the transportation of cashew sourced from Senegal.
Cooperation to establish a Tripartite Agreement
“These trade and transit issues we are discussing today are all fundamental issues for The Gambia, Senegal and Guinea Bissau. His Excellency, President Macky Sall has a strong brotherly and working relationship with His Excellency President Adama Barrow and His Excellency, President Umaru Embalo Sissoco,” Hon. Joof said. Hence, he recommended that they leverage on this positive relationship to advance the development of their economies and lift their populations out of poverty.
He expressed belief that this is achievable if they work together and strengthen the relationship among The Gambia, Senegal and Guinea Bissau, to promote the development of trade between the three countries.
In this context, Minister Joof proposed the establishment of a tripartite cooperation framework among the three countries, noting that this framework would bring the three trade ministries together to discuss, share experiences and deepen trade relations for their mutual benefit and to further deepen economic cooperation through trade.
For his part, Minister Fofana described Senegal and The Gambia as one people that trade among themselves. Therefore, he said, it is good for them to discuss pertinent issues that will benefit both countries and this has been manifested by both President Macky Sall and President Adama Barrow.
As ministers responsible for trade, he said, they should strengthen their engagement to creating the enabling environment for the smooth flow of trade and transit trade across their borders.
He assured his Gambian counterpart that they will work together with their technicians to realize these objectives.
Both Ministers agreed to reactivate meetings of the Joint Technical Committee to discuss these trade issues and address the challenges that both countries are facing. They gave a month to the trade technicians of the two countries to take stock of the challenges and make proposals for their consideration.
The two Ministers also agreed that a tripartite trade framework for Gambia, Senegal and Guinea Bissau will cement the trade relations and promote the development of trade among the three countries. They agreed for the Trade Minister of Senegal to initiate the process.