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Farmers and civil society groups march against EPAs

Ghana News Agency | 29 September 2008

Farmers and Civil Society Groups march against EPAs

Accra, Sept 29, GNA — Hundreds of Ghanaian farmers and civil society groups took to the street on Monday calling on the leadership of the Africa Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to reject outright the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the European Union. The EPAs are a major topic of discussion at the 6th ACP Head of State Summit to be held in Accra from Tuesday September 30 to October 3 this year.

The EU is seeking under the EPAs, a reciprocal trade regime with the African Caribbean and Pacific countries. This means EU exporting its goods to the markets of ACP countries quota and duty free and in return grants ACP countries similar access to EU market. Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire in December last year, initialled an interim EPA, pending conclusions of negotiations on the full deal. Bearing placards with inscriptions some of which read: "EPAs will kill our industries, "Do not lock Africa up in a dangerous trade regime", the protesters marched through the Ministries of Trade, Agriculture and Finance to draw attention of officials to their concerns.

Mr Kofi Asamoah, Secretary General of the Ghana Trade Union Congress, said the EPAs as currently structured are set to continue and even carried further the destabilising elements that have rendered developing countries economies so dependent on aid. He asked the ACP leadership to take cognisance of the fact that the free market principles on which the EPAs rest have for the past three decades failed to deliver the promised prosperity. Mr Asamoah said the intended removal of customs duties now or in the future of 15 years would severely weaken the revenue base of government and destroy the industrial base. "Now is the time and we believe we have the power to stop the EPAs to make sure it does not happen. We call on all our people to get involve in the struggle against the second coming of our colonial masters. "We humbly ask government to take a second look at the EPAs. We believe the deal is not in the interest of the country and pose a threat to the livelihoods of small scale farmers," Mr Jacob Kpodo, a tomato farmer from Ada, said.

According to the farmers, global food crisis should serve as a wake-up call to government to pursue good policies to enhance agricultural production and not to be coerced into signing a deal that could threaten the country’s food security and livelihoods. "Already, we are being displaced in our own markets due to government trade liberalisation policies, which have resulted in increasing volumes of imports of rice and tomato paste. I believe granting further market access under the guise of EPA would deepen our woes," Mr. Gideon Martey, President of Osudoku Cooperative Farmers Association told journalists.

"We must not think of what we stand to gain immediately. But it is important to look at the long-term implications of EPA on the economy and the livelihoods of peasant farmers," Mr Emmanuel Amoak, Vice-President of Okyereko Farmers Cooperative told the Ghana News Agency.

Mr Amoak said while the EU heavily subsidised its farmers, the same cannot be said of farmers in developing countries such as Ghana. "How can we compete in the same market place? We are simply going to be swallowed by the EU and you can imagine the implications for our livelihoods and those of our families," Mr Amoak said. Meanwhile, Africa Trade Network, is urging the leadership of the ACP to suspend all negotiations towards free trade agreements on Trade in Services with the EU, arguing that services must not be part of the EPAs.

In addition they must resolve to negotiate and agree a non-reciprocal ’goods only’ EPAs with the EU. In a statement read by Gyekye Tanoh, Programme Officer, Political Economy of Third World Network, the civic organisations urged ACP leaders to stand up and measure up to their primary responsibilities to their peoples. "There is no time when such leadership has been so needed to affirm the continued relevance and to assure the future of the ACP group," he added. 29 Sept. 08

 source: Ghana Web