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To sign or not to sign, as EPA debate continues…

….But CSOs kick against the deal

By: Fred Yaw Sarpong

Ghana and other member countries within the Economic Community for West Africa State (ECOWAS) region are to consider the signing of Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union by October 1, 2014.
Ghana, as a sole country concluded an Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA) with the EU in December, 2007. Even though Ghana initialed the IEPA but it has not yet signed. It is also noted that the regional EPA will supersede the IEPA when signed.
However, a large number of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and other relevant bodies in the country have kicked against, and have called on the government not to part of the Economic Community of West Africa State (ECOWAS) decision to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).
According to the CSOs if government signs the agreement it will guarantees free access to 75% of West Africa’s market in exchange for total EU products.
They argued that opening up of key goods markets in West Africa to duty free and quota-free EU access will destroy the already weak manufacturing sector of the sub-region.
The CSOs made this call at the National Forum on the Economic Partnership Agreement held in Accra last week. The forum was organized by the Ministry of Trade and Industry. The purpose of the forum was to seek views EPA agreement from CSOs.
They include Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Third World Network/ Economic Justice Network, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Ghana Agriculture Workers Union (GAWU), FAGE, ISSER and among others.
They believe that signing the EPA is likely to result in crowding out and eventual collapse of manufacturing in Ghana, which has over 95% of its exports to the EU market being primarily raw materials, as well as other countries in the sub-region.
‘The signing of the deal effectively makes Europe a member of ECOWAS and gravely undermines any meaningful South-South cooperation and integrated developmental regionalism in Africa’.
The stated that Ghana stands to lose import-duty revenue worth US$88.6 million annually up to 2022 if it signs the EPA, under which the 15 participating countries of ECOWAS will open their markets gradually. 
‘EPA cannot guarantee mutual and equitable benefits between the EU, ECOWAS and African trading partners but will contribute to a more free world,’ they added.
However, individual companies and some CSOs rooted for the signing of the EPA. They include Carghil Ghana Limited, IMANI, Blue Skies, Sea Freight Exporters Association, Tuna Exporters, Food Processors International, Golden Exotic and among others.
These companies also argued that they export almost about 90% of their finish products to the EU market and failing to sign the EPA will killed their businesses. According to them they employ a large number of Ghanaians and the EU market is their main source of revenue.
Mr. Tetteh Homeku Adjei of Economic Justice Network (EJN) told Daily Express that they expect the sector ministry to extensive cost benefit analysis on the EPA deal, so that both parties can study and take final decision. But he was quick to add that, ‘the ministry has failed us.’
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Madam Hannah Tetteh told the gathering that it is very important to take into consideration the Ghanaian companies who mainly depend on the EU market.
‘We cannot choose to fail the majority of manufacturing companies in Ghana who export the majority of their finished products to the EU market, adding that there is no manufacturer in Ghana who sole depend on local raw materials,’ she stated.
She noted that the reason why ECOWAS has delay in signing the EPA was as a result of different tariffs among the member countries.
She announced that in order to have a uniform tariff among the member countries, they have agreed to introduce Common External Tariff (CET) that will allow them meet the EPA deal.
Hon. Haruna Iddrisu, the Minister of Trade and Industry said in the interest of regional integration and to continue to enjoy market access for its export to EU, Ghana will be guided by the collective position of the ECOWAS  in conformity with the regions common goal.
He said that the West Africa- EU EPA will be well managed to ensure inclusive economic growth and development for Ghana, if it is signed before 1st October, 2014.
‘It is noteworthy that among the 16 West African countries, 12 are Least Developed Countries (LDCs) while four namely, Cote D’ Ivoire, Nigeria, Cape Verde and Ghana are developing countries. The 12 LDCs in ECOWAS are already operating under everything but arms (EBA) and therefore will not be affected if they do not sign the West Africa- EU, EPA. Out of the four developing countries, Cote D’ Ivoire has already signed an IEPA with the EU and therefore not experience export disruptions to the EU even  iof the West Africa-EU EPA is not signed before 1st October, 2014,’ said Hon. Iddrisu.
He emphasized that with respect to Nigeria, about 97% of its export to the EU is made up of crude oil. Nigeria will therefore not be affected much if it does not sign the West Africa- EU EPA. Cape Verde is on the other hand has expressed its willingness to sign the agreement.
The ECOWAS, at its recent 44th meeting of the Heads of States and Government at Yamoussoukro in Cote D’Ivoire, failed to sign the controversial Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union (EU), owing to some technical concerns raised by Nigeria and some member states.


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