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EJN Seminar on Economic Partnership Agreementss Ends in Accra

 ACCRA, Ghana(TWN-Af)--The Economic Justice Network(EJN) of Ghana closed a one-day workshop on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) for around 25 EJN members and the media at Coconut Grove Regency Hotel, with a call to members to “re-orient” at a “critical time” when the Europe is going through a financial crisis.

Opening the discussions, Gyekye Tanoh of TWN-Africa stated that there is “evidence of resistance [to the EPAs]” and it is possible. The question is on what civil society organisations can do even better at a time that the EU is much weaker and going through a crisis of its own with its economic and monetary union.

Edward Kareweh, deputy general secretary of the General Agricultural Workers' Union (GAWU) of the Ghana Trade Unions Congress., shed some light on the extent to which ECOWAS’ position had worsened by 2007. He explained that there were three elements leading to the deterioration: the first was the role of Nigeria and how it had said no to the EPAs; secondly, the role of Ghana in initialing the interim EPA, and how that was an entry point for Europe to get to the rest of Anglophone Africa; and finally, Cote d’Ivoire, which had actually signed an interim EPA. In his view, these three major points had all contributed to a general breakdown of ECOWAS’ position on the EPAs.

To shore up ECOWAS’ position, Ibrahim Akalbila of the Ghana Trades and Livelihood Coalition (GTLC) called on Ghana to negotiate as part of the sub-regional bloc of ECOWAS and not as an individual member country.

Head of Programmes of TWN-Africa Tetteh Hormeku said that “governments have abdicated the responsibility to formulate their own policies…and that is the challenge for the EPAs.”Hormeku suggested that in order to move forward, there should be an “audit of constituencies” to build a programme for mobilization, and this includes the media, as well as a range of economic sectors. The mandate of EJN, he continued, would need to be expanded from trade to incomes and livelihoods.

Suggestions from other participants included the establishment of a dedicated press corps on the EPAs, with a specific proposal for the Institute of Financial and Economic Journalists (IFEJ) taking the lead on this group. Another proposal, by CIVIC Response, was for a more long-term approach on the EPAs so that it would move away from the point where only a few individuals had mastery of the subject, but to a stage where there could be a critical mass of understanding on the subject

Closing the meeting, Programme Officer of TWN-Africa Sylvester Bagooro argued that the civil society networking of the EJN group would be re-launched with a defined agenda and an action plan, and that they needed to develop an approach on development issues and key moments, including capitalizing on moments like the regional integration month that had been launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration to better-explain and spread the word on the EPAs.

The EPA is a trade pact that is being negotiated between ECOWAS and the European Union (EU). The objective of the workshop was two-fold: first, to update participants on the current debate on the EPA negotiations that will have serious implications on Ghana’s industrial development and the entire life of the Ghanaian economy. Secondly, it sought to explain the dynamics for the African continent with regards to trade and development, and what Ghana and other African countries should be looking for.

The EJN is a coalition of Ghanaian civil society organisations fighting for economic justice. TWN-Africa is the interim secretariat

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