Ghana has given out more to the EU - TWN
The Third World Network, a trade advocacy group, says government had given up much more to the European Commission than it would gain in the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement dubbed; 'stepping stone agreement' signed between the parties early in December.
Mr Tetteh Hormeku, Head of Programmes of TWN, said the agreement did not only commit government to liberalise an overwhelming proportion of its imports from the EU without clear cut policy as to which sectors would be affected.
Ghana's interim agreement provides for the immediate abolition of tariffs on virtually all exports to Europe, and for the gradual dismantling of over 15 years of tariffs on 80 percent of imports from the 27-member bloc.
The remaining 20 percent of imports are deemed 'sensitive products' which will be subject to tariffs even after the 15-year transition period to promote economic development, food security, employment and government revenue generation.
By the terms of the agreement, the government committed itself to a schedule by which different tariffs on categories of products would be removed at different times. For some of these products, all tariffs must be removed in five years starting from as early as 2009 while others must be eliminated by 2017.
Mr Hormeku said, the agreement, however, did not specify the total percentage of goods to be liberalised according to the categorisation schedule. 'This is only implied in the categorisation of the goods for liberalisation which was supplied by the European Union, according to which about 20 per cent of imports fall under the category of goods not to be liberalised,' he said.
Mr Hormeku said by accepting to allow 80 percent of some European goods into the Ghanaian market duty-free and quota-free without clear studies as to the effect posed a danger to the country's fragile economy. He held that it was wrong for government to commit itself to future negotiations in areas of investment, competition, trade in services and intellectual property when such issues had been rejected by ECOWAS.
Mr Hormeku said it was strange that an agreement supposed to cover trade in goods only and to be replaced by a comprehensive EPA when it was concluded should contain elaborate mechanism for dispute settlement and committing for negotiations of non-trade areas.
Ghana has become the second West African country to sign an interim agreement, as developing countries rush to prevent disruption in their exports to the EU, the world's biggest trading bloc.
Neighbouring Cote d'Ivoire was the first in the region to initial an interim trade deal in goods, in a move some said broke ranks with the position of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that the deadline should be extended to allow for broader negotiations.
But ECOWAS Commission President Mohamed Ibn Chambas told the Ghana News Agency in an interview that the community supported specific interim arrangements to allow exports of goods only to continue, so long as they did not pre-empt talks on a broader regional EPA text.
Dr Chambas said while encouraging interim trade deals by individual countries, ECOWAS expected to see those countries in solidarity with the 'common position' of the bloc in its call for an extension of the deadline and the removal of some of the proposals deemed inimical to the region's investment rules and integration process.