Civil society groups and private sector organisations have urged President John Dramani Mahama to ensure that Ghana does not sign on to the Economic Partnership Agreement recently concluded between West Africa and the European Union (ECOWAS-EPA).
Consequently, they have requested the President to direct his Minister to the forthcoming meeting of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire from 25-26 March, not to sign the ECOWAS-EPA.
The request was made in a petition presented to the President John Dramani Mahama by the Trades Union Congress of Ghana, Ghana Chamber of Commerce, Christian Council of Ghana, Socialist Forum of Ghana and the Economic Justice Network of Ghana.
They also drew attention of the President to the failure of Ghana to organise extensive national consultations as agreed by West African Trade Ministers in Dakar this year.
The Coalition contended that the ECOWAS-EPA which would be the subject of discussion in Yamoussoukro is in many ways worse than Ghana’s own Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA), which was initialled in 2007, and which Ghanaian Governments have so far rightly refrained from signing.
At a Press Conference after the presentation of the Petition, Dr Yao Graham, Coordinator of Third World Network, said the coalition members were concerned about the negative consequences of the EPAs on the country’s economy.
He said in addition to implications such as revenue loss, attack on domestic industry and domestic value-addition, loss of policy space, constraints on South-South co-operation, the new ECOWAS-EPA explicitly target the light manufacturing sector.
It also commits the country to start, within six (6) months of the agreement being adopted, negotiations on deregulation of areas such as Services, Investment, Government Procurement, Intellectual Property and Capital Accounts, none of which are required by any international rule or obligation undertaken by the government.
“The cumulative effect of this agreement will be to take away from Government that very range of policy instruments that are needed to redress the multiple challenges that the country faced at this critical time of economic life,” he said.
The ECOWAS-EPA involves an agreement to liberalise 75% of all imports of goods into West African countries from the European Union. It explicitly targets for liberalisation of a series of locally manufactured products and related sectors.
This includes paper rolls, paper cartons, textiles, insecticides, fungicides, disinfectants, corrugated roofing sheets, paving stones, blocks, tiles, roofing tiles, corks, lids, bottle tops, baby walkers, prams and similar things, towels, sanitary towels, nappies, and similar products, garments and accessories for garments, fishing fees, chemical waste, among others.
All these can now be freely imported from Europe, ultimately with zero import tariff, if the ECOWAS-EPA is adopted.
On government procurement, Dr Graham said it would be said for Ghana to be denied that policy space, which government could use as a tool to create a stable market for local producers of most of the things that government purchased.
In Ghana, the use of procurement is crucial for fulfilling the local content policy whether in the oil and gas, mining, timber or any other sectors.
On deregulation of capital accounts, the EU seeks to facilitate, for its investors and financial dealers, the free flow of capital in and out of the Ghanaian economy and this would take away the very instruments used by the Bank of Ghana to manage our recent foreign exchange crisis.
“At the very least, the savings in revenue that our countries can make by not signing the EPAs are about three times the cost to the three (3) or so groups of exporters who will be affected, and that some of this saving can be used to support these exporters in the time that it will take us all to work to help them to diversify their export markets,” he said.