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11.01.2006 General News

Ghanaian groups blast major WTO agreement

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Accra, Jan. 11, GNA - Decisions taken at the just ended sixth ministerial conference in Hong Kong represented a major blow to the development prospects of Ghana and other Africans nations, civil society groups said on Wednesday.

The groups including the Third World Network (TWN)-Africa and the General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) of the Ghana Trades Congress said the conclusions arrived at, had rather opened up the prospects for further devastation of domestic production in all major sectors of the economy.

Speaking at a press briefing in Accra, Mr Tetteh Hormeku, Head of Programmes of the TWN-Africa, who led a delegation to Hong Kong, raised pertinent questions asking what happened that compelled African delegates to budge on their common position of kicking against the inimical proposals by developed nations.

"Two hours before the end to present the decisions at the conference, African delegates were still standing by their common position but surprisingly, they all came compromising their position," he indicated.

Mr Hormeku said Ghana and Kenya presented one of the most interesting proposals but were ignored.

He said pressures and manipulations were brought to bear on African governments, which could largely have accounted for them budging and the subsequent expression of satisfaction after the meeting. Mr Hormeku said the position African governments adopted were not much pressed and cautioned African Trade Ministers and negotiators to wake up, since the Doha round, which afforded such opportunity would end next year, 2007.

Mr Kingsley Ofei Nkansa, Deputy General Secretary of GAWU, who read the a statement titled: "Heavy losses for Ghana and other African Countries at Hong Kong..." said Ghana's expectation for the conference to remove unfair trade practices such as the continued grating of subsidy and protection by developed nations, were dashed. "Instead of concrete actions to address the unfair trade practices, which hold countries like Ghana back from benefiting from international trade, developed nations gave small, commercially meaningless or irrelevant concessions.

"Examples of these include: the fixing of date to end export subsidies by 2013 and the fate of cotton and aid for trade," he said. On cotton, Ghana and other African nations demanded an end to all the subsidies that prevented African cotton producers, particularly in West Africa, from selling their produce in the world market even though they were more efficient and produced better quality cotton at lower prices.

The United States, Mr Nkansa said, instead agreed only to end its export subsidies of 200 million dollars, which was only a small amount of the four billion dollars that it spent on cotton subsidies. He said on tariffs, Ghana and other Africans would be expected by the terms of the Hong Kong declaration to undertake cuts in their import tariffs that they could use to protect themselves against the continuation of the dumping on their markets of agricultural goods cheapened by domestic subsidies.

Mr Nkansa said that was bad for Ghana in particular, which depended on customs duties for up to 26 per cent of its annual tax revenue. He said in addition in the area of services, the developed nations went to Hong Kong with an agenda to change the rules of the services agreement and to take away the rights of countries to choose.