Cicil bodies urge Ghana govt not to sign interim agreements with EU


Accra : Civil society organizatons working on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) in Ghana have called on government to stand by its position not to sign the interim partnership agreements even in the face of pressure from the European Commission.

Support TwoCircles

They say this is important in order to avoid the dangerous implications of the so-called interim EPAs. The EPAs will replace the current Cotonou Agreement under which Africa, Carribean and Pacific (ACP) countries have enjoyed duty- and quota-free access to the European Union market.

Under the proposed deal, ACP countries will be required to open up their markets for about 80 per cent of products from the EU in order to continue to enjoy the duty and quota free access to the EU market.

“We are encouraged that the government decided that it was not in the interest of Ghana to sign the Interim Agreement proposed by the European Commission (EC),”, says Dr Yao Graham, Co-ordinator of the Third World Network.

The EC and the Ghanaian government were locked in discussions last week in an attempt to get the latter to sign on to the interim agreement but the discussions were deadlocked because the EC included in its proposal issues on the liberalization of government procurement, investment rules and capital flows.

Dr Graham told a press conference organized by the civil society organisztions under the umbrella of the Economic Justice Network here Monday: “These issues are not in any way related to trade in goods between the EU and Ghana (and other West African countries) and rules on them are not required by the WTO (World Trade Organization) for the purposes of continued duty-free access to the EU markets.”

According to Dr Graham, even in the area of trade in goods, the EC included in the interim agreement demands, which had not been part of the EPA negotiations. One such demand was for the government to forever eliminate the use of export taxes, which governments all over the developing world including Ghana, use when necessary to discourage the excessive export of locally produced materials in their raw form, so as to encourage value added processing and export.

While government’s refusal to accept such terms are encouraging, civil society organizations cautioned that the EC’s pressure over the deal had not gone away, especially now that Cote d’Ivoire had signalled its “initial intentions” to sign.

Dr Graham said civil society organizations appreciated the legitimate fears of mainly horticultural exporters, who had so far added to the pressure to sign the EPA-lite. “But we believe that the needs of this group can be met without endangering all the other vital and wide sectors of domestic producers and exporters, not to talk of other producers and socio-economic stakeholders,” he said.

The civil society groups therefore called on government to table immediately the GSP , which would cover about 97 per cent of the country’s exports.