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05.03.2009 Business & Finance

Regional EPA due in June

By Daniel Nonor ([email protected]) - Ghanaian Chronicle

A Regional Economic Partnership Agreement encompassing the West African region is expected to be signed later this year as negotiations are far advanced for a draft agreement in June 2009, and subsequently a full pact by the end of the year. The out going Head of the EU Delegation to Ghana, HE Ambassador Filiberto Ceriani Sebregondi has hinted.

Ghana, in 2007, signed an interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) - light with the European Commission (EU) making her second after Cote d'lvoire to sign the deal.

The move was to insulate the two countries from a disruption of their exports after preferential trade terms expired at the end of that year. The decision by government to sign the EPA, however, was met with a lot of backlash from civil society groups who argued that the trade agreements will only allow the European Commission to lock Ghana and other African countries into aspects of the EPAs, over which there are still fundamental disagreements, including issues which have never been part of the negotiations.

The groups stipulated that the deal will also bounce our countries into opening the African markets to European goods even before they have concluded proper assessment of what revenue needs and fledgling domestic industries can endure.

The Ministerial Monitoring Committee on the negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreement between West Africa and the EU at a meeting in October 2008, in Banjul, Republic of the Gambia, however, called on the negotiators to expedite action on reaching an agreement which would preserve the region's interest whiles respecting the June 2009 deadline.

The Ambassador, who is expected to end his duty tour to Ghana in June, this year, also reflected on some activities of the European Union in the country, during his tenure of office.

The Ambassador stated that although Ghana's economy would face the most difficult times until the oil revenues starts trickling in, the EU will continue to deliver on its promises to back Ghana's economy to sail through the times.

As a commitment to its promises, The EU Last week provided an additional 6.2 million euro facility for the government to help address the effects of the escalating international food prices.

The support, formed part of the addendum to the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Country Strategy Paper and National Indicative Paper (CSP/NIP) for 2008-2013, bringing to 373 million euros the total budgetary assistance to Ghana under the EDF.

Under the programme, 76 million Euros will be budgeted for in the area of transport connectivity and regional integration, 95 million euros for governance and decentralisation, while 175 million euros will be allocated for general budget support.

HE Ambassador Filiberto Ceriani Sebregondi intimated that the EU was committed to raising its level of assistance to developing countries to at least 0.7% of their GDP and also making those aids more effective through the well known list of best practices, lastly committed in the Accra Agenda for Action, adopted at the last Aid Effectiveness Forum in Accra, last year.

He however, called for greater transparency, public accountability and a consultative approach with all stake holders in the oil industry to maximise the oil gains.

He recommended that government cuts its expenditure and increase its revenue generation to cushion it against the economic challenges ahead.