Mr Murtala Mohammed, Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry said Ghana as a non-Least Developed Country would be the only country in the West African sub-region whose exporters would be greatly hit if it does not sign the West Africa EPA.
He said out of 16 countries in West Africa, 12 are classified as Least Developed Countries, and in view of this, they could export their products duty free and quota free to the EU under a scheme called “Everything But Arms (EBA)”, so they are not obliged to sign any EPA with the EU.
He explained that these Least Developed Countries however, have agreed to sign the West Africa EPA in order to move the ECOWAS regional integration forward.
Mr Mohammed stated this, on Tuesday in Accra at a half day symposium on the Economic Impact of the Common External Markets and the EPA.
The symposium was under the auspices of institutions such as the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the World Bank, the Department of Foreign and International Development and the Development Research Uptake in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Minister said Cote d’Ivoire had already signed an interim EPA with the EU and as a result would not experience any export disruption to the EU market even if the West Africa-EU-EPA is not signed before October 1, 2014.
He said about 97 per cent of exports from Nigeria to the EU were made up of crude oil, and therefore, Nigeria would not be affected much if it does not sign the West Africa EPA.
He observed that Cape Verde has expressed its willingness to sign the West Africa EPA, declaring that Ghana would undermine the process of the regional integration in the West Africa sub-region if it fails to sign the West Africa EPA.
Mr Mohammed observed that for some Africa countries, including Ghana, the incentives to opt for the interim EPA were the fear of losing EU market access for selected commodities, lack of options as many of their most important export sectors were dependent on the EU market and a threat by the European Commission to raise taxes on exports to Europe if they fail to sign on.
“Given this situation, it appears to me that we should move on to sign, but let’s do so by being properly informed of the implications,” the Deputy Minister stated.
Dr George Owusu Essegbey, Director of Science Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) said the symposium creates a platform for open and frank discussion of research output that must inform policy decisions – in this case, “we focus on Ghana’s policy decisions as they affect our international trade relations”.
He said the CSIR in collaboration with the nation’s universities would be placing a Research Fellow in the Ministry to coordinate the implementation of research findings.
Ms Karrine Sanders of the Association of Commonwealth Universities said there was the need to improve the accessibility and utilization of locally relevant research findings for development in Africa.
The EPAs are a type of ’preferential trade’ agreement in which both sides agree to reduce the tarrifs on import duties and going out of their countries. The EPA sought to replace the trade provisions of the Cotonou Agreement that granted non-reciprocal access to the EU market until 2008 with a non-discriminatory trade agreement in order to comply with the World Trade Organization.
The EPA between the EU and African, Caribbean Pacific Countries (ACP) has been fraught with disagreement since it was initiated over 10 years ago.
While the EU hails the agreement as a new form of partnership that would promote economic growth and poverty reduction in ACP countries, ACP countries are skeptical about the impact that the EPAs will have on their developmental priorities especially, industrialization, smallholder agricultural development, government revenues, unemployment, poverty and food security.