Consider alternatives to EPA - CSO urges government

BY: Charles Andoh

Third World Network, a civil society organisation, has called on the government of Ghana to consider alternative means available to it to enter the European market rather than signing the controversial Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

According to the organisation, signing the EPA would lead to the total collapse of the Ghanaian economy, which was already facing serious challenges.

“The fact that Ghana would have 100 per cent access to the EU market does not mean everything is free,” the Head of Programmes at the Third World Network, Mr Tettey Hormeku, said.  

Media workshop

Addressing participants in a workshop in Accra last Wednesday, Mr Hormeku dismissed claims by some government agencies and other civil society groups that Ghana might lose 40 per cent of its trade opportunities annually to the European Union (EU) market if it did not sign the EPA, saying that such claims were misleading.

The EPA is a partnership agreement proposed by the EU to replace similar economic agreements that existed in the past between the Euro zone members on one hand and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the other. 

Although the agreement enabled cross-border benefits between the two sides, some civil society organisations, as well as pressure groups, have kicked against it, explaining that the impoverished nature of the country’s industrial sector puts it at a disadvantage.

Alternatives for Ghana

If Ghana failed to sign the EPA, Mr Hormeku said, 72 per cent of its current export to the EU market duty-free, per the “Generalised System of Preferences”, which already existed for Ghana, could not be taken away since it was contractual.

In spite of this, the head of Programmes at the Third World Network explained that if Ghana failed to sign the EPA, it would lose 28 per cent of duty-free goods for three major categories of goods that would be transported to the EU market, including horticulture, tuna and cocoa products, which would amount to $52 million annually.

He added that failing to sign the agreement would also save the nation about $400 million annually since the nation would be able to charge tariffs on some products that would come from the EU market to Ghana.

He further explained that Ghana could use some of the money from the $400 million to revamp such industries and export to other markets such as Chinese.

Terms in EPA text  

He further argued that the terms and provisions that existed in the current EPA text did not favour ECOWAS, especially Ghana but favoured the interest of the EU, which, according to him, was inimical to the growth and development of the Ghanaian economy.

He also observed that all the terms and provisions in the current EPA text did not exist in the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) requirements, and called for an immediate amendment to such terms and provisions. 

He cited the rendezvous clause in the text, which would liberalise the Ghanaian economy and give free access to the EU, saying it never existed in the WTO requirement for trade in the EU market.

Misinterpretation of text

“Our negotiators have allowed the EU to misinterpret the WTO requirements to their interest.

“The EU is only trying to reposition itself against the future with the emerging markets such as China, and as a result, embarking on such agenda for ECOWAS states,” he observed.

He noted that enough researches from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) attested to the fact that some developed countries that entered the EU agreement were struggling to revive their economies.