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PRESS STATEMENT ON Economic Partnership Agreements

 Ladies and gentlemen of the press, we represent a wide-cross section of citizens groups and constituencies of Ghana.  We have gathered here this morning to alert you to what we see as a grave new development in the long-running negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreements with the European Union.

Recent utterances by the Ministers of Trade and Industry, confirm intelligence we have gathered from various sources that the Minister is pushing the Ghana government to sign the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement, IEPA, that was initialled in 2007. At a recent public meeting of Ghana-EU Partnership the Minister stated categorically that the benefits of signing the EPAs far outweigh the negatives.  This comes on the heels of an interview granted a local newspaper not too long ago where she declared that Ghana will have no alternative than proceed with signature of the IEPA in the light of the lack of progress at the ECOWAS level.

The Minister’s claims are not only incorrect.  They also contradict her own publicly stated positions.  For instance, just last month at the Doha conference of the UNCTAD, she argued publicly that the EPAs will only benefit European companies in Africa.  On many occasions since she took over the job of Minister in 2009, she had argued that serious changes will have to be made to the IEPA as initialled before Ghana can consider signing.  As far as we are aware, none of these contentious issues in the IEPA has been resolved.  Certainly, nothing has happened in terms of changes to the IEPA since her statement in Doha to make her adopt such a dramatic u-turn.  

The Minister has also suggested that signing the IEPAs is the only option to protect Ghanaian exporters.  This is not correct.  So far only a tiny handful of exporters[1] stand to be affected if the IEPA is not signed.

But even here, there is a mechanism to meet the need of this few. The ECOWAS trade ministers meeting last year in Accra, adopted a regional mechanism (Solidarity Fund), put forward by her own Ministry based on experts advice, to compensate the few exporters in Ghana and Ivory Coast who could be affected if there is no timely progress on the EPAs.  The Minister seems to have done very little since the decision was taken to ensure the operationalisation of the Fund

[1] Goods under the standard Generalized System of preferences, the worst form of trade regime will attract duties as low as 2% and as high as about 20% depending on the product. About 70% of exports would continue to face zero tariffs to the EU. Exports of cocoa beans, hardwood lumber, gold and diamonds would be unaffected by changes in tariffs. However, tuna would face tariff increases of between 18% and 20%, fruit and vegetables exports (2-8%), and cocoa butter and paste (4-6%).  

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