BusinessSectorsGhana seeks EPA deal despite ECOWAS stance


Posted on Thursday, 28 June 2012 12:43

Ghana seeks EPA deal despite ECOWAS stance

By Lawrence Quartey

Ghana is likely to follow Cote d'Ivoire by signing the full Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU), a cabinet minister has said.

Map of GhanaThe move will be pursued if the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) fails to reach an agreement under the EPA framework by 2014.

Ghana's Trade and Industry minister Hanna Tetteh on Wednesday told journalists that the West African country was already benefiting from the EPA.

"Before we had the IEPA we were constrained in the volumes of bananas we export to the EU market," she said.

"The IEPA has allowed the quota and duties to be eliminated. Now there is no barrier to export to the EU market.

"This concession or having no quota is what has attracted additional investment into the banana sector in Ghana."

Tetteh added: "About six years ago, we were doing like 30,000 to 40,000 metric tons a year (from Golden Exotic Company), but right now on the average, we are doing about 50,000 metric tons a year.

"So you agree with me that taking things from 40,000 to that level of export is a significant increase in export of banana from Ghana to the EU." 

The minister spoke during a tour of Golden Exotics Limited (GEL), a banana and pineapple producing company set up to take advantage of the quota and duty free export to the European Union.

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She said with the EPA, Ghana would become innovative in the way it does business.

"And if there is a player in the market already, then you would not expect new players to come in," Tetteh said.

"That is the reason why this particular arrangement had had benefits for Ghana." 

She added that IEPA had given investors more incentives to invest locally.

But the benefits have been limited because Ghana has not signed the full EPA. Tetteh said Ghana was eliminating tariffs on certain products under the EPA.

"So is not difficult to give it away," she said adding that 40 percent of the country's exports went to the EU.

The EPA would be rolled in phases over five years. Ghana's next step would be to eliminate tariffs on products where the country charges five percent duty.

The third phase will be for products that attract 10 percent tariff and the final phase, which is the highest duty on any import, is 20 percent tariff on certain products. 

"Within this period of five years, and five years and five years, it also expected that we will also take the steps to take advantage of the preferences that have been given to us, so that what we lose on tariffs revenue we have made in our production capacity," she said.

"It is not a zero sum game." 

EPAs are a scheme meant to create a free trade area between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

They were a response to continuing criticism that the non-reciprocal and discriminatory preferential trade agreements offered by the EU violated World Trade Organisation rules.

The EU EPA was supposed to take become operational in 2008 but the negotiations are yet to be completed.

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