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TRADE-GHANA: &#39&#39EU Will Be the Main Beneficiary of the EPAs&#39&#39

Francis Kokutse

ACCRA, Nov 15 2007 (IPS) - If Ghana’s government used civil society protests as guideline as to which way to go in the negotiations with the European Union (EU) on the economic partnership agreement (EPA), the talks would have been terminated.

The message to the government has been clear: the EPA will not improve trade between the country and its European trading partners. Unfortunately, governments do not always consult their people in such matters.

Civil society has shown clearly where it stands when it comes to the EPA currently being negotiated between the EU and, among other groupings, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

In its present form, the EPA will lead to the loss of livelihood for most peasant farmers, Mohammed Adam Nashiru, president of the Ghana Trade and Livelihood Coalition Campaign (GTLCC), told a recent meeting of peasant farmers organised by the GTLCC in Tamale in the north of the country.

Some 60 percent of Ghana’s workers are in the agricultural sector, which is the main source of livelihood for Ghanaians and supplies 35 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Nashiru referred to a study by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa which has estimated that Ghana would lose revenue equal to eight percent of its GDP. He identified the poultry industry and tomato factories as those most at risk to be negatively affected if the EPA were to be implemented.

The country’s industrialists, organised under the auspices of the Ghana Association of Industries, are also applying pressure on the government.

The executive director, Cletus Kosiba, told IPS in an interview in Accra that ‘‘we are not opposed to trade liberalisation. We are aware that liberalisation has its positive side. However, our main concern is the way liberalisation is being handled under the EPA negotiations’’.

Kosiba said Ghanaian industries are not in any position to compete with their European counterparts because of the challenging conditions under which they operate.

‘‘There is a need to improve the competitiveness of the country’s industries. This would help us benefit from any liberalisation regime. This would require some support to the local industries to expand their capacity,’’ he added.

Kosiba said the negotiations should be postponed for three years. This extra time should be utilised to create structures that would help build the capacity of industries and improve conditions. This will enable African countries to take advantage of the opportunities that the EPA liberalisation regime may offer.

‘‘Until this happens, any attempt to impose wholesale liberalisation, as envisaged under the EPAs, will only kill infant industries,’’ Kosiba said.

He mentioned the fruit processing industry as an example. In its present form, there is no way that the exporters of processed pineapple could compete with their European counterparts because of their cost structure. Pineapples are one of Ghana’s top exports.

Kosiba also cited the influx of Chinese goods into the country and said this has posed a significant threat to the survival of the country’s industries. The government has not been able to do anything about this, he said. ‘‘Therefore, any further opening of the Ghanaian market will amount to nothing less than killing struggling industries.’’

In spite of these protestations, Ghana’s President John Kufuor seems unsure as to which position to adopt on the EPA. He has given mixed signals about the country’s position on the negotiations.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in September in New York, Kufuor asked the EU to give Africa enough time to think through the EPA before appending their signatures.

The one exception has been cocoa exports. Cocoa is Ghana’s main export and any upset in cocoa production would greatly affect the country. Thus, in an address in Accra on October 12, Kufuor told cocoa producers to unite against the imposition of tariffs on cocoa products to the European countries.

Addressing a meeting of ministers from countries that belong to the Cocoa Producers Alliance (COPAL) he said, ‘‘speaking against the imposition of tariffs would be one of the surest ways of ensuring sustainability of the cocoa industry’’.

If the EPA is not signed by Ghana, 30 percent of the country’s exports, including cocoa butter and paste, will face stiff tariffs, according to a report written by Oxford University researcher Mayur Patel for the Realizing Rights Ethical Globalisation Initiative.

The Trade Union Congress has asked Kufuor to state his position clearly. Secretary general Kwasi Adu-Amankwa said Ghanaian workers do not want any agreement with Europe that would further devastate an already ailing industrial sector.

Adu-Amankwa does not regard the EPA as an answer to the continent’s problems. ‘‘Rather, it is a tool for re-colonising us.’’ The main beneficiary of the EPAs would be the EU and ‘‘the people of Africa would lose even the little that they have achieved so far,’’ he added.

He has used every opportunity over the past few months to call on the government to resist ‘‘EU pressures and manipulation to sign the agreements’’. For Adu-Amankwa, the EPA holds far-reaching negative implications for domestic production.

He warned that Ghana and, for that matter, Africa as a whole, stands to lose when the EPA comes into force.

Among other concerns, the EU has been pushing for the inclusion of government procurement in the EPA to enable their suppliers to outbid local suppliers and further bleed the ailing West African economy, Adu-Amankwa argued.

The deputy minister of trade, Kwaku Agyeman Manu, has said that the EPA should provide a mechanism to enable Africans achieve their development goals.

‘‘We need an EPA with true development provisions built into it to ensure that the EU’s promises of making the EPAs function as development tools, are translated into commitments that can be fulfilled.’’

Manu said Africans ‘‘can only take advantage of the market opening opportunities and ensure that the EPA, indeed, becomes a development tool,’’ if the final outcome of the negotiations is the building of ‘‘our productive capacity, competitiveness and industrial upgrading as well as the enhancement of our integration process’’.

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