19 April 2014

Ghana Shouldn't Be Intimidated to Signing EPA - AGI

Photo: Lonrho.com
Container ship

The Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) has urged the government to take a resolute stance and not be intimidated into signing the controversial Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU). The call comes ahead of the country's national consultation forum on the EPA, which takes place today, at the Accra International Conference Centre.

Though there are strong indications within the government that it would sign the deal, but the President of AGI, James Asare-Adjei, said Ghana should, once again, show leadership by not signing the deal.

The ECOWAS Heads of State, at the last summit in Yamoussoukro, Cote d'Ivoire, took a decision to resolve some outstanding technical aspects of the EPA within the next two months. The EPA, which is a free trade and development pact negotiated between the EU and the African Caribbean Pacific (ACP), when signed, will compel Ghana and other ECOWAS countries, excluding Nigeria, to open their markets for goods and services from Europe duty-free.

The ECOWAS-EPA involves an agreement to liberalise 75% of all imports of good into West African countries from the EU. On the face of it, this is better than the 80% liberalisation contained in Ghana's Interim EPA.

While this agreement may allow Ghana's exports to the EU 100% exempt from customs and other duties, Ghana will, in turn, have to eliminate tariffs on 75% of its imports from the EU, amounting to $300 million losses in government revenue, Mr. Asare-Adjei emphasised.

Tariffs constitute an important development tool, but Ghana stands to lose its right to leverage such tariffs as soon as it ratifies the EPA, he added. However, Nigeria has decided not to sign the agreement.

The Business Chronicle learned that the decision was reached at a meeting to collate the views of all interested parties in Nigeria. This means that Nigeria would not accept the decision of ECOWAS to fully sign the agreement.

Nigeria's stance would not influence Ghana and other West African countries to reject the exploitative EPA. If ECOWAS goes ahead to sign the trade agreement with the EU, it will break up economic and political relations with Nigeria, which is the largest economy in Africa, according to economists.

The opponents to the diabolic EPA deal, which are mainly civil society organisations (CSOs), include the AGI, Trades Union Congress of Ghana (TUC), Christian Council of Ghana, Ghana Chamber of Commerce, Socialist Forum, and the Economic Justice Network of Ghana, urged President John Dramani Mahama to reconsider his position, contained in his recent State of the Nation Address, on the EPA, and direct Ghana's Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the meeting, not to sign on to the agreement recently concluded between West Africa and the European Union (ECOWAS-EPA).

Unfortunately, the EPA is being pursued by the EU at a time most ACP states, including Ghana, are beginning to transform from mere suppliers of raw materials to emerging multi-sector manufacturing economies.

The AGI President and opponents of the diabolic trade deal stated: "The EPA is more than just a trade agreement. As a legally binding international treaty, with elaborate implementation and enforceable provisions, it impacts significantly on our economic fortunes and development agenda".

After a thorough examination of the EPA, including the ensuing debates and an assessment of its pros and cons, the AGI has resolved that the conditions and prescriptions of the EPA, as they stand, will not be beneficial to Ghana for a number of reasons.

It totally derails our national agenda of Ghana becoming a truly industrialised country with the potential to create employment, equitable wealth, and sustainable growth of the Ghanaian economy.

Signing the EPA contradicts H.E. President John Dramani Mahama's commitment to change the structure of the economy, through primary, secondary, and tertiary processing, and to make the economy export-driven as indicated in the recent State of the Nation Address.

Mr. Asare-Adjei added: "EPA obligations are legally binding, and are into perpetuity. Clearly, this is not the time to lock Ghana and ECOWAS' long-term trade and development prospects into an irreversible agreement that gives the EU trade preferences over every other trade partner, as evident it its Most Favoured Nation Treatment (MFN) and standstill clauses."

The AGI noted that the EPA, when signed, would further fragment and eventually derail the harmonisation of West Africa's regional position and the process of regional integration.

The EU has also negotiated separate accords with different regions, and this approach weakens the ACP states, thereby denying us a collective bargaining power.

According to the AGI, investment and development assistance are not guaranteed under the EPA, and even if they are not forthcoming, there are no provisions within the EPA for the beneficiary country to be released from its obligations.

Ghana is faced with the challenge of tracking goods from outside the EU, coming into the country, which would have attracted import duty, but rerouted through the EU corridor.

This is quite complex to ascertain under the Rules of Origin clause, and our capacity, as a country, to verify these is limited.

Today, the spotlight is on Ghana, and with the ECOWAS Chair now in Ghana, it gives us an opportunity to establish, once again, leadership in the transformation of our economies from the wholesale raw resources export to one of industrilisation and value added, and also build consensus from member states to negotiate for better options in the interest of the entire ECOWAS.

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