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19.11.2008 Africa

Ghana needs no full liberalisation - EU

> Ghana needs no full liberalisation - EU

The European Union (EU) says Ghana would not be required to fully liberalise its market to EU imports if it signed the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) by December this year.

The EU said in a statement that while it would offer full market access for West African countries from January 1, next year, with no customs duties and quotas, West African countries were not expected to match that offer.

“Ghana and West Africa clearly has the possibility to exclude from the liberalisation of all sensitive agricultural products such as tomatoes, poultry, wheat, rice and vegetables, as well as industrial products such as agro-food products, aluminium, paint and plastic bags,” says the EU.

The Union however, said West African countries could choose to liberalise machines or vehicles that were not produced in the region, thus reducing the cost of those important inputs for all West African producers, service businesses and consumers.

The statement described as false the assertion that the EU was bullying West African countries into completing negotiations this year and that there existed viable alternatives to EPAs.

“This is not the case. Because our current trade arrangements heavily favour Ghana and other ACP countries in the EU markets over the other developing countries we had to negotiate a waiver at the WTO”, the statement said.

The statement said the suggestion that EU could obtain a new WTO waiver to extend the current system was not an option.

“A new waiver would require unanimity in the WTO and other non-ACP developing countries that would not agree to preferential treatment of the ACP at their expense except at a very high cost for ACP countries, as it was the case for Tuna fish in the past and could be for Banana or other products in the future”.

“Another myth currently circulating is that Ghana qualifies for a special arrangement called "GSP+". This, sadly, is not true as access to GSP+ depends on conditions linked to ratifying and fully implementing key international conventions on human rights and development”, the statement explained.

It said the only legal alternative to EPA was called the Generalised System of Preferences or "GSP". This offers much less generous market access than the present trade regime.

The statement said “without the EPA, key Ghanaian exports such as cocoa, tuna, pineapples and aluminium will, become more expensive in the EU markets from next January”, adding that about 25 per cent of Ghana's exports to Europe worth about €240 million would be at risk, and would face a weighted average tariff of 8.4 per cent as opposed to the current zero per cent.

“We are also open to include a safe-guarding clause in an agreement that will allow West Africa to temporarily raise duties to protect sensitive markets. In other words, sensitive markets in Ghana may actually benefit from EPAs and become more competitive to the mutual benefit of consumers and producers,” the statement said.

It said the European Union welcomed strong debate over EPAs. But to suggest that EPAs were a danger to African development was misleading and wrong.

“The EPAs are not a threat to development; they are an opportunity not to miss and a valuable tool to achieve development. The EU's aim is not to "flood" West-African markets with cheap EU products, but to create the conditions to "flooding" the sub-region with fresh capital for investments,” the statement explained.

   

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