Business and Financial Times, Ghana
Civil Society unhappy with interim EPA
By Konrad Kodjo Djaisi
28 May 2012
The Economic Justice Network (EJN) has accused the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ms Hannah Tetteh, of stabbing ECOWAS in the back by indicating that the country can no longer linger on the idea of signing and ratifying the interim agreement on Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
By pushing for signing of the interim EPA, the coalition of civil society organisations and faith-based groups say the utterances of the Minister run counter to sound technical advice on the EPA, the Ministry’s own position — and even her earlier utterances on the trade pact.
At a press conference held in Accra last week, the group insisted that it is unnecessary for Ghana to sign the agreement because there are options for dealing with the export challenge and also avoid the disastrous clauses in the interim agreement.
Citing one example, the group mentioned the idea of a “Solidarity Fund” advanced by ECOWAS Trade Ministers in a meeting in Accra last November which the regional body mooted to solve the export challenge, save the regional integration agenda, as well as counter the divide and rule tactics of the European Union.
The network disputes the Minister’s assertion that signing the interim agreement is the only option open to the country so as not to disrupt trade with the country’s largest trading partner — the EU. They insist that only a tiny handful of exporters stand to be affected if the IEPA is not signed.
They recalled how on many occasions since taking office in 2009, she had argued that serious changes would have to be made to the IEPA before Ghana could consider signing. However, none of the contentious issues, according to the group, have been resolved.
Similarly, the group recalls that at the Doha conference by UNCTAD, the Minister stated publicly that the EPAs benefit European companies in Africa only.
“The Minister’s inconsistencies and omissions only serve to confirm information that she has been pushing a reluctant Cabinet to sign the EPAs.”
Key personalities that form the network — like the General Secretary of the Christian Council, Reverend Dr. Fred Deegbe — were present and quoted on their impressions of the EPA.
Fred Deegbe is on record as saying that the EPA is an injustice that should not be allowed to happen to the good people of this nation, while Seth Abloso of the TUC is on record as stating that trade liberlisation over the past decade has resulted in the collapse of most viable industries in the country and its attendant effect of laying-off workers and the spread of poverty.
Ghanaian manufacturers represented by Dr. Oteng Gyasi noted that EPAs harm manufacturers’ ability to develop value-added industrial products on the basis of cumulative inputs and integrating production processes regionally.
In 2000 the EU replaced its trade relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries which required countries to remove 80 percent of its import duties to gain 100 percent entry into the EU market.
Since the EU accounts for 40 percent of trade with Ghana, the group argues argue that it would translate to 40 percent of revenue-loss through import duties.