Foreign Minister Raps ECOWAS MPS On EPA

A section of the ECOWAS MPs attending the conference .  Fourth right on the front row is Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hannah Tetteh and next to her is the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, Senator Ike Ekweremadu

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Hannah Tetteh seized the opportunity yesterday at a special two-day dialogue between members of the West African Parliament on Trade and Finance Opportunities for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as well as cross border challenges in the sub-region to encourage West African parliamentarians to support the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between European countries and their African counterparts.

The Foreign Affairs Minister said despite the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme, member countries continue to face serious challenges in moving goods and services across borders because of stringent border post arrangements, as well as numerous security checkpoints in each country, stressing that a business entity would have to pay approximately $50 as bribe in order to transport goods from Ghana to Burkina Faso and vice versa.

She said this has drastically reduced the volumes of trade between West African countries to the level of about 10 percent while trade volumes with European and Asian countries was around 90 percent.

‘Without EU’s support, we are already killing ourselves so it is important as parliamentarians you play active role in the debate to sign up to the EPA for the benefit of Africans.”

She explained that as a result of slavery and stereotype about neo-colonialism, people believe that EPA was another form of neo-colonialist deal.

She said almost negligible percentage of trade between ECOWAS countries was very embarrassing and unacceptable.

She, therefore, urged members of the ECOWAS Parliament to come out with meaningful contributions to help achieve proper economic integration between member states.

The programme, which took place at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC), is being sponsored by the National Institute for Legislative Studies in collaboration with the African Capacity Building Foundation and the ECOWAS Parliament.

The Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, in his opening speech, said that ‘it is common knowledge that both formal and informal trade within the sub-region suffer numerous bottlenecks despite ECOWAS statutes on trade liberalizations, stressing that challenges associated with border crossing, illicit cross-border activities, cross border crimes and the lack of human and institutional capacities have been serious factors overwhelmingly affecting trade and investment integration in West Africa.

‘The subjection of officially traded goods to complex, non-transparent or divergent regulatory requirements escalates trade transaction costs and encourages traders to escape formal procedures,’ the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament said, noting that the trend was not good for the overall aims and objectives of ECOWAS.

By Thomas Fosu Jnr

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