Ghana is likely to miss the October 1st deadline for the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) if Parliament fails to conclude the ratification of the agreement between government and the European Union (EU).
It would be recalled that in December 2007, Ghana initialed an interim EPA to avoid a similar tariff action after the preferential trade agreement enjoyed under a previous treaty , named the Cotonou Accord expired in the year 2000.
Since 2000, African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) had been working with the EU Commission to sign a non-preferential bilateral trade treaty in which either side would offer both tariffs and concession, but in a regime that favours the ACP countries more.
ECOWAS member states including Ghana have been working since 2000 to sign the pact as a sub-region with the EU.
Trade volume between EU and Ghana Trade volume between the EU and Ghana as at 2013 was estimated at 11.2 billion euros from 1.9 billion euros in 2000. Currently, the EU is Ghana’s biggest trading partner as trade volumes is further estimated to surge.
Trade analysts and financial experts have expressed worry over government’s lack of clear direction on the matter as income from EU is crucial for Ghana’s investment and economic expansion.
Executive Director of the European Business Organization-Ghana, Nico van Staalduinen speaking at the maiden edition of the Citibusinessnews.com Breakfast Encounters, however emphasized that Ghana has already signed unto the EPA but it is awaiting ratification from the Legislature as stipulated in the country’s laws in relation to international agreements.
“Ghana’s law is such that if the government signs an international agreement, it needs to be ratified in Parliament and because the EPA is a multinational agreement, it has to pass parliament at least three times. As far as I know, the ratification has passed government and it is now going to Parliament,” he remarked.
Nico van Staalduinen however cast doubt over Ghana’s ability to complete the ratification process by the October 1 deadline.
In his view, the legislature has limited time to complete the ratification process as the current session of Parliament ends in July with Parliamentarians expected to resume in the second week in October, which will be after the October 1 deadline.
“I also do not think the first vote has even taken place and besides there are only a few more weeks left to sign because when Parliament rises, it is expected to resume in the second week in October after which the agreement would also have expired already, that is, in the first week in October. I also do not think in an election period, a lot of Parliamentarians will be available to vote on any such decision,” he added.
This new development comes on the back of concerns raised by some exporters who fear they may be forced out of business if Ghana fails to sign the EPA.
They argue that the non-signing of the agreement will result in high tariff being charged on their exports to markets in the EU.
Ghana & Ivory Coast sign interim agreement
The delays in concluding discussions on the Economic Partnership Agreement has largely been attributed to the failure of some West African countries like Nigeria in signing onto the agreement to be arrived at by member states of ECOWAS.
President Mahama in June this year also assured of continuous trade relations with Ivory Coast despite that country’s decision to sign the EPA.
“With regards to the EPA, both our countries have interim economic partnership agreement with the European Union. We had hoped that we should be able to negotiate an ECOWAS-wide EPA but unfortunately due to the Non Signature of the EPA by Nigeria and Gambia, it is obvious that Cote D’lvoire and Ghana have to enter into some transitional arrangements in order that our economies will not suffer. But even in those circumstances we will continue to work hard so that the whole sub region can have a partnership agreement so that we are able to advance our integration,” he stated.
With the announcement that the government has already signed the EPA, the importers and exporters association believes the government has not been truthful to Ghanaians.
Foreign Affairs Minister, Hannah Tetteh earlier told Citi Business News Ghana’s engagement with the EU on the EPA will still stand despite the exit of the UK from the EU.
Businesses demand clarity from government
Meanwhile businesses have criticized government’s failure to disclose its engagement with the EU on the EPA.
Speaking to Citi Business News, the Executive Secretary of the Association of Importers and Exporters Ghana, Sampson Asaaki Awingobit described the development as unfortunate.
He is therefore demanding clarity from the Ministry of Foreign affairs and the government.
By: Pius Amihere Eduku/citibusinessnews.com/Ghana