General News of 2014-06-04

Signing of the EPA … It’ll be disastrous if we act alone - Mahama

President John Dramani Mahama has said Ghana will continue to play a facilitating role in the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA,) especially now that the country has assumed the chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

President Mahama said this at the 44th meeting of Heads of States and government of ECOWAS nations at Yamoussokro, Ivory Coast, recently.

According to Mr. Mahama, negotiations on the EPA with the European Union (EU) should be done at the sub-regional level rather than on a unilateral basis.

He said “Nigeria’s position on EPA is very clear. Africa is on the rise. It a very big strategic market for any trading partner. That is what the EU wants from us but Africa must jealously protect what it has.”

“…We should leverage our abundant natural resources on a large market to develop our industries; create jobs for our people; increase intra African trade and achieve regional integration. We must not be in a hurry to give away what we have. We must not sign an agreement without first of all carrying out a robust economic analysis of the overall impact the agreement will have on the region, our children and future generations.”

Zambian Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Robert Sichinga, said he agreed with Nigeria’s position noting that rather than jeopardizing their industrialization and job creation drive by hastily signing the EPA.

“African countries could work towards enhancing regional integration and intra-African trade through value of the condition of their abundant raw materials, especially in the areas where they have competitive and comparative advantage,” he urged.

African Union (AU) Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Fatima Haram, said “let us be realistic and look at our statistics. The population of Africa is growing very rapidly. Statistics shows that more than 50 per cent of our population is between 18 and 25. If we sign the EPA, how do we create the jobs that we require for our growing population; how do we stop the illegal migration of our youths to developed countries?”

The statistics pointed to the fact that intra-regional trade is low and stands at between 6 and 11 per cent of total exports of countries in the sub-region.

It is unacceptable that about 90 per cent of the exports from ECOWAS countries were sent to Europe, Asia and other countries.

Despite ECOWAS statutes on trade liberalization, the formal and informal trade in the sub-region suffered numerous bottlenecks.

Many challenges associated with border crossing. ECOWAS should restrict the EU from taking control of certain key sectors such as agriculture or draft policies that will prevent the EU from having access certain markets.

Meanwhile, the Private Enterprise Federation of Ghana (PEF,) has asked governments to listen to the private sector bodies and debate the EPA document.

According to players in the sector, they want to see the EPA document in order to review it and come out with a position,

“It is only in this case that private sector groups in the country can make their inputs on the EPA proposal… Ghana cannot compromise its sovereignty for the interest of ECOWAS. EPA must be beneficial to Ghana and not ECOWAS, they urged.