Mr John Kaputin, Secretary General of the African Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP), has expressed regret about the split within the ranks of the group with respect to the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations.
He said instead of being a unifying factor, the EPA process had split the group into states that have embraced the full EPAs and others that have doubts about the scope and content of these agreements.
"Addressing all contentious issues will smooth the way for the successful conclusion of the EPA process and produce an agreement that will be embraced by both sides," he told the opening session of the sixth Summit of the ACP Heads of State and Government in Accra.
The EU is seeking under the EPAs, a reciprocal trade regime with the African Caribbean and Pacific countries. This means EU will export its goods to the markets of ACP countries with quota being duty free. In return ACP countries will be granted similar access to EU market.
Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire in December last year broke ranks with other members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and initialled separate interim EPAs with the European Union, pending conclusions of negotiations on the full deal.
Under the interim EPAs, 80 per cent of exports from EU into the developing countries would be on duty-free, tariff-free basis in exchange for 100 per cent market access for developing countries exports to the EU.
Mr Kaputin called on the Heads of State to provide the political guidance and leadership in charting the best way forward taking into account the need to retain the EU as a key development partner.
President John Agyekum Kufuor also pointed out the divisive nature of the process.
"The EPAs divide the solidarity that used to bind the ACP countries together under the pretext of giving regional emphasis to the relationship between the EU and the six ACP Regions," he said.
Besides the EPAs are also "threatening to deprive members that do not sign by giving deadlines, which could prove catastrophic to our fragile economies," he emphasised.
Civil society groups have called on the leadership of the Africa Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to reject outright the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the European Union.
They argued that the EPAs as currently structured are set to continue and even carry further the destabilising elements that have rendered developing countries' economies so dependent on aid.
They asked the ACP leadership to take cognisance of the fact that the free market principles on which the EPAs rested had for the past three decades failed to deliver the promised prosperity.
The Civil Society groups also questioned the intended removal of customs duties now or in the future, saying it would severely weaken the revenue base of governments and destroy the industrial base.