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Ghana's Trade Minister Says "Regional Integration Not Working"

 ACCRA, Ghana—(TWN-Af)—25 Aug, 2010—Despite Nottingham University’s Professor Oliver Morrissey’s claim that Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) will accrue only 0.01per cent% of Ghana’s GDP to consumers, and imports from the European Union will go up by six (6) per cent, he is emphatic that Ghana should “not fear the EPA.”

Morrissey was speaking on the topic “Africa-EU Economic Partnership Agreements. What is happening and Implications for Ghana” at an Economic Development Lecture Series organized by the Department of Economics, University of Ghana, Legon.

Chaired by Ghana’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Hannah Tetteh, the programme proved to be a lively one, where a number of views on the EPAs were expressed.

Morrissey began his presentation explaining that the EPAs are “an excellent example of difficult politics of trade policy reform.” He said there will “be some people who lose out”, but Morrissey also claimed that the “benefits are diffuse and spread across the economy” and that “some imports will become cheaper.”

This general lack of clarity on the benefits of the EPAs in general and the imports in particular was reflected in his assumption that the benefits to Ghana on regional sensitive products would be on “articles of plastic, iron and steel, stone and cement.” His ambivalence over the EPA was remarkable, despite saying that “welfare affects would be small”, in the same breath, he said it could be “either positive or negative.”

Morrissey was equally ambivalent on the state of play of the EPAs and how it is affecting regional integration. In his view, while it was unclear how ACP countries would deal with loss of tariff revenues, he believed this was the “only thing” ACP countries were concerned by. His claim that the EPAs are “working in the East African Community” at a time when the EAC had actually put the brakes on its signing by postponing to November 2010 further reflected the paucity of his knowledge on the negotiations. Remarkably, he did not even know whether Ghana is part of a “regional framework”, despite the fact that he is a self-confessed lover of Ghana and the subject of the EPAs since 1998.

He concluded his presentation by claiming that “overall benefits” can be secured from the EPAs, and it would “promote intra-regional trade”, “support export diversification” and “support adjustment” of the economies of the ACP.

After the presentation, the interventions by participants were largely skeptical.

While some participants seemed to be wavering over how beneficial it would be to Ghana, other interventions were more emphatic.

Chair Hannah Tetteh, who repeatedly pushed the government’s position that the EPA is good for Ghana in between questions, was reminded by that a number of analyses by various organizations, local and international indicate that the EPAs will decimate the Ghanaian economy.

A participant wondered why despite the “insightful presentation”, Morrissey had “downplayed intra-regional trade displacement”, pointing out that a country like Nigeria was opposed to the EPAs, and this had nothing to do with its size, but everything to do with how it would affect regional integration and that country’s economy.

No less than the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), a participant averred, in its fourth edition of its “Assessing Regional Integration in Africa (ARIA)” had been emphatic about why EPAs were bad for Africa and how its conclusion was likely to distort the economies of Africa

The ECA report states that “EPA principles work against the current configuration of the eight AU-recognized RECs.”

To which Hannah Tetteh responded that “regional integration is not a wonderful thing. It is not working and has not worked.” Morrissey added “the lack of EPAs is [rather] undermining regional integration, and not the other way around.” In his view, he said with a faint smirk, “West Africa’s integration is not working.” This is surprising, considering how oblivious he seemed to be to the fact that Ghana is part of a “regional framework.” She assured the audience that “in one form or another, there will be an EPA agreement.”

As for Ghana’s trade minister, her reason for the non-functioning regional integration of West Africa was because of Nigeria. She explained how despite several attempts spanning many to establish a technical commission between Ghana and Nigeria, it had come to naught, because Nigeria’s “self-interest” overrides attempts at regional integration.

The Trades Union Congress’ Kwabena Darko explained that he “took exception” to the point on Nigeria the Minister made, and that on an issue like export diversification, the “EU is asking Ghana to abolish its export taxes.” In Darko’s view, contrary to Morrissey’s presentation, Ghana was committed to removing not 75 per cent but 80 per cent.

Regarding the sensitive list, which Darko said Third World Network Africa had identified “many of the products are over-lapping.” He concluded his intervention by pointing out that Morrissey’s presentation had probably missed the boat as it is not the only report that says EPAs will be beneficial. In fact, he went on, the EU had conducted many studies that showed that the benefits would, at best, be negligible.

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