The European Union (EU) is by far Ghana's largest trading partner.
Exports to the EU accounted for 37% of total exports; imports from the EU also accounted for 42% of total imports. This therefore means that over 70% of Ghana's trade is with the EU.
The Government of Ghana, in previous years, proposed to sign an agreement with the EU to remove tariffs on their products in exchange for cheaper goods from the EU.
Though some critics agitated against the signing of the agreement, some stakeholders in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) saw it as a good initiative to boost Ghana's trade with her European partners.
During a discussion table at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in Accra at the IEA Conference Hall, the IEA stressed the importance of Ghana's agreement with the European trade partners.
Giving an overview of the EPA, the Institute noted that the EU removes tariffs on 100 percent of its imports from ECOWAS immediately while ECOWAS also removes tariffs on 75 percent of its imports from the EU.
Under the EPA, ECOWAS countries are demanded to remove all tariff barriers between them.
This is intended to boost local businesses in the nation and improve Ghana's competitiveness on the international market.
The IEA on Monday, February 24, organized a roundtable discussion on national economic growth under the theme "Factors Affecting Economic Growth in Ghana: Policy Implications."
The IEA met with major stakeholders to deliberate on the benefits of the EPA and drummed the idea that the EPA would deliver the country from its economic challenges.
According to the Institute, the agreement will help build institutional reforms to create enabling environment for local industries to be competitive and as well, promote competitiveness of local industries.
Country Economist (Equatorial Guinea) of the World Bank, Erik Von Uexkull speaking in an interview with Peacefmonline.com believed the EPA initiative would help remedy the business environment in Ghana.
He noted from the World Bank perspective that though the Bank remains a neutral broker in the negotiation process, it is however "trying to identify and point out what the interesting potential benefits for the African countries could be in this exercise.
“The access to input and capital equipment is actually important factor for competitiveness…But there’s a strong need to accompany the EPA with domestic reforms that promote competitiveness…I believe that most of the factors that matter for competitiveness are very much related to the domestic environment; access to good services, access to good infrastructure, access to functioning government institutions but with respect to trade, I think it’s actually for firms that they have access to intermediate inputs…”
This notwithstanding, Dr. Seth Adjei Baah, President of the Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Industry expressed worry over the signing of the EPA.
He explained that; “it’s about the private sector employing a lot of people. So if the private sector, industry, is destroyed; how do we create the employment and if the people are not working, how do they go in there to buy even the cheap goods that they’re talking about. They wouldn’t have the money. So, we think we should think about employment for our people and employment is about industry. So we should support the local industries, help them to very competitive before we think about EPA.
“Because the main purpose of EPA is for the Europeans to build their industrial base to create employment for their people so that they will have a way to where they will supply their produce when they do their production and that is what is happening. So, I believe we should think about local industries, build the industrial base, help to build our companies before we think about EPA.”
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