General News of 2014-04-05

We are ready to sign EPA - Rashid Pelpuo

Government is ready to sign a controversial Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) which critics say, will hand over the economic control of 16 West African states to its colonial masters.

Minister of State in charge of Public Private Partnership Rashid Pelpuo says it will be too costly not to sign because the EPA is tied to 'aid, technical assistance, political assistance and trade'

The EPA has been a troublesome negotiation process over access to European and African markets. Talks have travelled for 12 years. The European Union want 100% access, Ghana and some other West African countries are offering between 60% to 75%.

The agreement will involve reducing and removing import duties of European manufactured goods from roofing sheets to toilet paper. Europe will also remove quotas, duties on African exports to the EU.

According to the EU, the EPA is intended to "foster African, Caribbean and Pacific [ACP Countries] integration into the world economy thereby promoting their sustainable development".

Two West African countries, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, initialed an interim EPA with the EU at the end of 2007. The interim EPA with Côte d'Ivoire was signed on 26 November 2008.

But in an expected turn of events, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) rallied by Nigeria, held off the signing of the agreement last week asking for time to resolve some 'technical' issues.

The decision was hailed by the media, anti-EPA Civil Society Organisations and some international relations experts as a refusal.

But the celebrations are meant to be short-lived. Rashid Peluo has poured cold water on the jubilation.

Speaking on Joy FM and Multi TV's Newsfile, a Saturday political analysis programme, the Minister of State sounding resigned, argued that in the absence of a viable alternative, Ghana's Gordon Guggisberg economy stands little chance of boycotting the agreement.

'So who do you turn to when you need budgetary support or some technical assistance for ministries if we do not sign this agreement?', Pelpou questioned.

"We are ready to sign the EPA", - a chorus he repeatedly assured.

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