The country is likely to lose out on investments from the European Union (EU) market should it fail to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) after the October 1, 2016 deadline elapses.
The EPA, which is to allow a duty free and quota free market access to the EU market for Ghanaian businesses, is currently being debated by stakeholders in the sector.
The Acting Minister of Trade and Industry, Ms Hannah Tetteh, explained at a stakeholders’ meeting to discuss issues pertaining to the signing of the agreement and said there would be adverse effects if we do not sign.
“We will no longer be a competitive investment destination for businesses looking to invest from the EU in Ghana. This is because they will very much like to go to countries where they would be given duty free, quota free access to the EU market because that will guarantee them competitiveness,” she said,
Aside losing out on investments, she also explained that players in the Non Traditional Exports (NTEs) sector would also feel the impact due to restricted access, although they have built their businesses on the back of access to the EU market.
She stated: “If we do not sign the EPA, the implications are not just for the countries exporting, but also to the companies that supply to the companies that are exporting. This is because if your main customer is no longer in business, then of course that is definitely going to affect your business.”
Another implication, she explained, was that there would be job losses in the country because if businesses were not getting ready market, then they would lay off workers to continue to stay in business.
“What that will do is also to have an impact on the job market. If market access is not available and they, therefore, do not see why they should continue doing business in Ghana, and they decide to lay off their staff, that means there will be job losses as a result of not signing,” he said.
No room for negotiation
The EU Ambassador to Ghana, Mr William Hanna, said it was not possible to extend the October 1, 2016 preferential market access for middle income countries, including Ghana.
He said the EU was looking at moving its relationship with the middle income countries to a level where it will boost trade and create jobs and not necessarily provide aid.
Ms Tetteh, who also confirmed that there was no room for negotiation, said: “At this juncture, no, because we have been negotiating for about 16 years now; there are two negotiations that have taken place so far as this is concerned.”
She added that although EPA negotiations had concluded, failure of some member states of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) had stalled the move, and they therefore had to fall on an interim EPA to continue to trade.
“The fall-back position, if we choose to take it, will be an interim economic partnership agreement, failing that the businesses that export to the EU will only be able to access the EU market on the basis of the general system of preferences on October 1, 2016,” she said.
The forum was to develop a consensus on the way forward by engaging stakeholders on how best to proceed on the matter, as discussions and the way forward for signing the EPA was purely a Ghanaian decision.
“We are at a critical point at this time because even though we had hoped that we would have signed an ECOWAS economic partnership agreement, that is not going to be the case because two of our member states have indicated that they are not ready to sign now,” she said.
She added, “we need to develop a consensus position so I cannot immediately tell this is what we are going to do. If we want to continue to have market access, duty free and quota free, then what we need to do is to sign and ratify our interim economic partnership agreement.”
Source: Daily Graphic
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