The date, October 1, 2016, is set and will no longer be extended; Ghana must sign the interim Economic Partnership Agreements like the Ivory Coast has done, or non-traditional exports will not enjoy duty-free and quota-free access to the European Union market.
According to the EU Ambassador Ghana William Hanna, extending the date “is no longer possible”, and the attitude of the Ghanaian government - which is egged on strongly by exporters to the EU market - points to the country signing the agreement in the not-too-distant future.
Some 16 years of back and forth have passed, and the initial expectation that ECOWAS as a regional block would sign the agreements does not seem likely any time soon, as big brother Nigeria has said it is not ready to sign.
Ghana must therefore go it alone, at least in the interim, just like La Cote D’Ivoire has done.
Leading efforts toward signing is Foreign Minister Hannah Tetteh, who easily comes across as the one person in government who is most responsive to the EPA.
When she was Trade and Industry Minister, Hannah Tetteh often reminded the Third World Network and other civil society organisations that are opposed to the EPA of the dangers that awaited the country if an agreement was not reached.
She is, incidentally, currently serving as a stand-in Trade and Industry Minister because Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah is said to be on leave, and she is leading discussions with private sector actors on the need to reach a consensus as the October 1, 2016 deadline draws nigh.
A meeting was held at the Foreign Affairs Ministry yesterday, which meeting discussed the consequences for Ghanaian exporters if the country fails to sign an interim EPA in the absence of an ECOWAS-wide agreement.
Exporters to the EU market in the cocoa, tuna and fruit industries made a strong case for signing, saying if the country does not sign their businesses will collapse and the thousands of people they employ will go jobless.
In the cocoa sector, for example, where the EU happens to be the largest importer of processed and semi-processed cocoa from Ghana, a 6.1% import tariff will apply to cocoa liquor, 4.2% to cocoa butter, and 2.5% on cocoa powder if the country does not sign the agreements.
In the fruit sector, George Kporye - Corporate Affairs and Administrative Manager of Golden Exotic Limited, West Africa’s largest exporter of bananas - told the meeting that should the country fail to sign, every box of bananas from his company will attract a 19.4% tariff at all EU ports.
Meanwhile, 90 percent of the company’s produce, he said, goes to the EU market -- adding that in view of uncertainties regarding the agreement, his company has put a hold on capital investments.
The livelihoods of some 2,500 people who work with the company are at stake, he said, concluding that the country needs to sign the treaty “and sign quickly”.
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