A former chief negotiator for ECOWAS in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU), Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, is calling on ECOWAS to address concerns raised by civil society groups on the agreement.
ECOWAS countries will be expected to open up 70 percent of their markets to EU goods, while being granted 100 percent access to the European market except for rice and sugar if the agreement is signed.
The Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS has already agreed in principle to sign the EPA with the EU.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Economic Justice Network (EJN) have condemned the move and are warning that the agreement will lead to the collapse of the sub-region’s young manufacturing sector.
Speaking at a memorial lecture to commemorate the 2nd anniversary of the passing of President John Mills, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas cautioned that the concerns being raised by labour and civil society must be considered seriously.
“In particular, the concerns over market access and the impact on local industry must be taken up seriously. The supply-side constraints of West Africa producers must be addressed to enable them take advantage of the huge EU Market.” he said.
He mentioned that the Ghanaian administration has a responsibility to ensure “nascent Ghanaian businesses do not crumble under the weight of an unequal and lopsided partnership as is the worry of the opponents of the EPA.”
He said Ghana bears a proportionately greater responsibility for signing the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union because it was signed under the presidency of the country of ECOWAS.
Dr. Ibn Chambas warned that, “even under the ACP /EU partnership agreement for 40 years, the ACP country in total shipment to EU countries haven’t been more than 2 or 3 percent , so there are serious challenges that we need to address if we are to take advantage of that EU market”.
According to him, ECOWAS member countries must be ready to address key capacity and infrastructure concerns to benefit from the agreement.
“We need to address those supply-side constraints, poor infrastructure, lack of energy, high cost of transportation, of shipment, the usually cumbersome procedures on the EU side that needs to be simplified … these are serious issues that need to be addressed so that we can truly take advantage of the huge European market that is offered under the EPA,” he emphasized.
By: Rabiu Alhassan/citifmonline.com/Ghana