The debate over the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) took a dramatic twist on Thursday when civil society groups heckled Claude Maerten, the European Union delegate.
The EU delegate eventually had to be escorted out of the premises by Minister of Trade & Industry, Haruna Iddrisu when the latter realized the violent behavior of anti-EPA proponents.
Civil society groups like the Third World Network were of the view that the forum was meant purposely for local stakeholders in the country and not the EU.
‘It’s a national debate and we don’t expect the EU or any other group to participate in it or make any contribution whatsoever. It’s for local stakeholders in the country only,’ the CSOs shouted when Mr. Maerten mounted the podium to address participants about EU’s stand on the EPAs.
‘We don’t care. We want the EU out of this. That’s all we want,’ they stated when the MC for the forum, Sydney Casely-Hayford tried to calm them down.
The Minister of Trade, Haruna Iddrisu, who was seated comfortably with Hannah Tetteh, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, had to rush out of his seat in an attempt to calm the nerves of the civil society groups.
‘It’s a national forum but it does not mean that it cannot reach out to other groups,’ Mr Iddrisu noted.
Ghana has until October 1, 2014 to finally take a decision on the EPA although the country signed the Interim Economic Partnership Agreements (IEPAs) in December 2007.
Meanwhile, Nigeria has clearly indicated that it would not sign the EPA.
The interim agreement commits Ghana to eliminate tariffs on 80 percent of goods imported from European Union. Forty percent of all Ghana’s world-wide imports come from Europe.
The EPA is to establish Free Trade Zone between Europe and the African-Caribbean Pacific Groups (ACP) of countries.
But stakeholders and critics, including the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Economic Justice Network (EJN) and the Institute of Statistical Social Economic Research (ISSER) strongly believe that the agreement is not in the best interest of Ghana and that the government must hold on until certain amendments were made in the EPA.
According to them, certain key clauses in the EPAs were meant to profit the EU only and not Ghana or any other country that would sign it.
Mr Iddrisu said, ‘Ghana will be the only country in West Africa whose exports will be greatly affected if it does not sign the West Africa-EU EPA before October 1, 2014.’
Expression of fear
Meanwhile, a few stakeholders like Cocoa Processing Company, Golden Exotic Company and Pioneer Food Cannery, have noted that further delay in signing the EPA would adversely affect the cocoa and horticultural sectors of the economy.
They have therefore called for the immediate signing of the EPA.
BY Melvin Tarlue
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