ITC assists Liberia in developing its services sector

6 August 2013
ITC News
Government and private-sector stakeholders receive training on the benefits of regulating the services sector, in line with the country’s bid to join the World Trade Organization

The International Trade Centre (ITC) is assisting Liberian government officials and members of the business community in developing the country’s services sector, in support of the country’s bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO).

ITC on 7 and 8 June hosted a workshop on trade in services in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, which aimed to open a dialogue with stakeholders and address knowledge gaps related to the country’s bid to join the WTO.

The workshop covered topics such as negotiations and the benefits and challenges of liberalizing and regulating the services sector, identified as a first focus area to target in preparation for accession. Participants discussed the need to ensure backward linkages and hire local workers to attract foreign direct investment.

A related session on tourism services showed that better regulation is needed to ensure openness and attract foreign direct investment to the sector. A session on telecommunications services showed that the sector is well-regulated, but subsidized programmes are needed to increase access in rural areas.

Strategy for WTO accession

ITC experts led a separate session focusing on the development of a comprehensive strategy for WTO membership, aimed at increasing overall awareness of the process and preparation necessary for accession.

Session participants stressed the need for accession to be linked to the development objectives set in Liberia’s economic growth and development strategy, called Agenda for Transformation, poverty-reduction strategy and specific policies of line ministries.

Engaging the government

At the government level, ITC staff found a need for increased understanding of WTO accession, specifically within line ministries. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry requested ITC’s support in formulating a negotiation strategy and asked for assistance in developing a national trade policy.

Collaboration with the private sector

In assessing the level of organization and capacity of the private sector, an ITC assessment revealed a need for more dialogue and collaboration within the sector, as well as a need to identify priority areas of development and improve understanding on those issues.