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Lets scrutinize the Economic Partnership Agreements

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Accra, Oct 20, GNA - A workshop on the implications of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) for agro-based industrialisation on Thursday called for vigilance towards the negotiations to make the African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) countries to derive maximum benefits. It noted that a number of impact studies had shown that there were substantial risks involved with the EPA concept that must be addressed adequately to forestall the problems associated with earlier agreements between the ACP and European Union (EU) states.

Addressing the workshop, Mr Kwadwo Affram Asiedu, Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, said the negative implications of the agreement on agro-based industries were an issue of paramount concern. The workshop, with representation from the Economic Community of West Afican States (ECOWAS), was to aggregate ideas on a common position on agro-based industrialisation within the EPA agreement and how it affected the ACP countries on one hand and the EU on the other. "In the main, it will imply that we open our markets, even if minimally, to mostly subsidised agricultural imports from EU with negative effects for local food production, food security and livelihoods."

He indicated that with the low level of infrastructure and weak and uncompetitive production structures of development in West Africa, any EPA, which did not put development ahead of trade liberalisation, could create serious problems for weak economies. Mr Asiedu said he was pleased that civil society organisations somehow were making efforts to understand the issues and carrying relevant scientific analysis to determine the real magnitude of the risks posed by the EPA.

"Impact assessment studies and research based information is needed to guide the EPA negotiations," Mr Asiedu said, adding, "countries of the West African Sub-Region needed to determine the nature of the risks involved so as to devise defensive proposals to minimize the negative impacts of the EPA."

He, therefore, asked ECOWAS states to agree on what the mitigating strategies should be in order to advance credible negotiating terms. Ms Anna Nyamekye, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in Charge of Livestock, urged ACP states to place themselves in positions of strength in the forthcoming negotiations while working to ensure that their agricultural sectors were well equipped to meet the rising demands of modern agriculture