Business News of 2013-12-12

ECOWAS’ decision to influence Ghana in signing EPA – Haruna Iddrisu

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Haruna Iddrisu has said Ghana’s final position on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union would largely be influenced by the decision of ECOWAS.

Speaking on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show on Wednesday, he mentioned market access and duration of market access as the two major issues that have delayed the signing of the agreement.

“For instance, they want free, a more liberalized 100 per cent regime; what we have offered so far at the regional level is 75 per cent market access so that we can protect 25 per cent,” he noted.

Haruna Iddrisu said, “We have also requested the European Union to give us development support in terms of building our capacity to absorb the shock that would be associated with some of the revenue losses and other negatives that might be associated with the EPA.”

Economic Partnership Agreement is a scheme to create a free trade area (FTA) between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP).

There have been several calls on government of Ghana not to sign onto the Economic Partnership Agreements as the move could be an economic blunder that would threaten the economic stability of Ghanaian exporters.

But the Minister said at a recent meeting of ECOWAS heads of state in Senegal chaired by the President of Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattarra, attended by Ghana’s Vice President Amissah-Arthur, it was agreed that the bloc’s negotiators go back to the European Union to begin negotiation “with the view to concluding an equitable and development oriented economic partnership agreement”.

The European Union partners have given a deadline of October 2014.

In 2007, Ghana initialed the interim agreement, which has been binding on Ghana pending regional decision.

“I am confident that early next year, we will engage stakeholders in the country, with a view of taking the country’s position, which would be influenced by the regional position”, the trade minister indicated.

The minister also underscored the need for Ghana to develop the capacity of the local industry and also be independent as possible.

“For instance, the poultry industry, what prevented us from supporting them? And I am happy to know that they are also a targeted group for our stimulus packet. I am currently reviewing for EDIF consideration, a request, which we have received from the Poultry Farmers Association as a group, they are looking for up to 7 or 10 million cedis. I am optimistic before the end of first quarter next year, we should be able to give them some support,” Haruna Iddrisu pointed out

The trade minister also called on the international community not to misconstrue Ghana’s attempt to enforce local content as an attempt at nationalization or an attempt to drive away foreigners, but just asking foreign companies to partner with local skills and competencies to achieve mutually beneficial relationship.