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11.04.2005 Business & Finance

Change current trade terms - Third World Network

By GNA

Accra, April 11, GNA - A trade activist on Monday urged organizers of the Global Week of Action on Trade to target the forthcoming World Trade Organisation's Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong as a means of effecting radical change to current trade terms between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

Mr Tetteh Hormeku, Head of Programmes of the Third World Network, noted that as the first ever meeting after the Cancun Meeting in Mexico two years ago, preparations should not only be comprehensive, but also adequate.

The next meeting of the WTO is scheduled for December. Mr Hormeku made the comments at a seminar organized to sensitise policymakers on the need to stick to policies that favoured local industries and agricultural concerns, instead of blindly following WTO rules and regulations, which invariably killed local initiative.

The week is celebrated by civil society groups to register the world's indignation and protest against the current obnoxious world trade regime, which is contributing to loss of livelihood of millions of people living in the developing world.

Mr Hormeku said talk of liberalizing the agricultural sector of the ACP countries was welcome, "but what is equally important, but is not talked of, is the imposition of industrial tariffs". Currently only one per cent of tariffs charged by ACP states are covered by WTO rules.

"If the current agreement or rules as they stand are allowed to go through, we stand to lose our rights completely."

Mr Hormeku said he was unhappy about the increasing dependency on food imports, which had made Ghana vulnerable to fluctuations in commodity prices and also weakened the local currency.

"The unstable macroeconomic environment is a result of the unbridled trade liberalization policies introduced by the Government in the early 1980s", Mr Hormeku said. He added that the US was supplying 40 per cent of Ghana's rice needs.

Launching the Week, the Reverend Nathan Samwini, Director of Programmes of the Christian Council of Ghana, said the subsidy issue was mind-boggling.

He noted that advanced nations subsidized their rice farmers, but surprisingly, the Ghanaian farmer receives no support from the government, while his American counterpart received Federal support.

"In this regard, the Ghanaian farmer does not stand a chance." The US Government also supports its cotton producers with an annual figure of 3.9 billion dollars, three times US foreign assistance to Africa's 500 million people.

Rev. Samwini said Ghana's cotton industry was completely dead, as all the cotton industries in the North had closed down while a number of textiles industries had folded up or were in the process of folding up. Ghana Textile Printing Company in Tema is the only viable local textile company in Ghana today, he said.

He called on the Government to rethink the entire future of economic direction of the country if the country was to survive the current trends and to stem the fast developing dependency syndrome. Rev. Samwini decried the appalling state of the meat and tomato industries, which were being killed by cheap foreign imports.

Dr K. B. Asante, a Former Ambassador, who chaired the event, expressed concern about the situation in which high premium was placed on imported goods, saying that it was detrimental to local industries. He, therefore, urged the Government to find pragmatic strategies to make local industries not only viable but also able to compete on the international market.

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