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Ghana, European Union Sign Economic Agreement

Ghana and the European Union (EU) yesterday signed an initial agreement as a stepping stone towards the much talked-about Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Dubbed the “Stepping Stone Economic Partnership Agreement”, the arrangement is intended to give Ghana some time to allow for more discussions with the EU on concerns over the EPA.

The EPA will allow 80 per cent goods from the European Union to Ghana duty-free and quota-free over a 15-year period while Ghana will have 100 per cent free access to the European market.

The agreement, which was given a final seal at the Castle, Osu, yesterday, was also designed to prevent any serious trade disruption between Ghana and the EU when the current trade arrangement under the Cotonou agreement expires on December 31, 2007.

The Minister of Trade, Industry, President's Special Initiative (PSI) and Private Sector Development (PSD), Mr Joe Baidoe-Ansah, signed for Ghana while Mr Filiberto Ceriani Sebregondi, EU Ambassador and Head of the European Commission Delegation in Ghana, initialled for the EU.

Under the agreement, Ghana will be entitled to export goods such as banana and canned tuna on quota basis and duty-free while protecting all sensitive Ghanaian sectors and products.

At the signing ceremony, Mr Sebregondi said the Stepping Stone Agreement was not the EPA but an instrument to avoid the situation where Ghana could become worse off as of January 1, 2008 by losing billions of cedis as a result of trade disruptions.

He said the Stepping Stone Agreement was even better than the status quo under the Cotonou Agreement as it contained more favourable rules which would boost Ghana's local industry.

Mr Sebregondi said under the agreement, Ghana would have 15 years to liberalise only 80 per cent of its market and the remaining 20 per cent would either never be liberalised or so done in not less than 25 years.

The agreement also contained a 100 per cent market access to the European market quota-free and duty-free while the liberalisation of the Ghanaian market would be gradual, progressive and very asymmetric, he stated.

For his part, Mr Baidoo-Ansah said in order to maintain Ghana's major trade interests with the European Union, the agreement encompassed an agreement on goods compatible with World Trade Organisation rules.

Story by Nehemia Owusu Achiaw