The message must be clear. If they forgot to steal enough resources during the colonial period, they need to be told in no uncertain terms that it is too late! The EU must leave us in peace. We have our own destinies to follow. Signing onto the EPAs will trigger severe loss of jobs, and threaten the peace of the continent. It will cause economic and political unrest. It will strangle Africa’s freedom to evolve and pursue its own development agenda. And it will facilitate current attempts to recolonize Africa.
We acknowledge that the existing framework of the Cotonou Agreement is not compatible with section 24 of the WTO Agreement, so it must be replaced. It is not for nothing that the WTO Agreement calls for a regional trade agreement of this nature, to have elements of liberalizing trade between the two parties. The agreement is a one-way preferential arrangement. It has very little to do with free trade and much to do with coercive economics.
The only agreement you need for WTO compatibility is an agreement which covers trade in goods. Far beyond trade in goods, the EPA that is on the table contains a commitment to negotiate the liberalization of services, investment, capital accounts. public procurement, removal of export taxes, and also, intellectual property protections. Those are not required for WTO compatibility. so if those things are taken out, we can still have an EPA or trade agreement with the European Union that is compatible with the WTO. Those things must be taken out. We do not need them. As it stands, like many trade agreements these days, it is really about putting multinational corporations above the laws of nations.
We must protect our domestic policy space, by excluding trade, issues that are not required under the WTO. It is instructive to note that in Cancún. in 2003 African countries blocked those same issues being proposed once again. It would be foolish to give them away to the EU on a silver platter. Developing countries have all along been trying to retain some policy space for themselves, so that they can liberalize or close as they choose. This agreement drastically undermines such efforts.
FSG is in full agreement with Dr. Yao Graham, Executive Director of the Third World Network that the control of these instruments are crucial to our sovereignty as a people. “The more of the areas you put in an agreement, the more you lose your control over your domestic policy space.” That is why we ask that those sections incompatible with the WTO agreement be taken out. We must protect our ability to pick and choose the terms we offer. We need to retain some control of policy instruments.
On the goods agreement, we highlight the scope of liberalization which has been a subject of an earlier CSO petition to the President to which FSG is a signatory: “In addition to all the negative provisions of Ghana’s IEPA with their implications such as revenue loss, attack on domestic industry and domestic value-addition, loss of policy space, constraints on South-South co-operation, the new ECOWAS-EPA contains two fundamentally egregious threats to the economies of Ghana and the region.
“Not only does it explicitly target the essence of the light manufacturing sector, the acknowledged catalyst for any transition of Ghana’s economy from a small-holder agrarian economy to an industrialised economy; it also commits the country to start, within six (6) months of the agreement being adopted, negotiations for an extensive agenda of deregulation of a whole range of areas–such as Services, Investment, Government Procurement, Intellectual Property and including even areas that have never been part of the EPA negotiating agenda, such as Capital Accounts, none of which are required by any international rule or obligation undertaken by the government”.
It has to be noted that the global economy is changing. Power is shifting to Asia and Latin America. What are the opportunities there? How do we diversify our trade? As Europe loses its competitive advantage, we are proposing to lock ourselves in with Europe. We are limiting our own ability to take advantage of the opportunities opening in the world. This must stop. The Mahama Administration needs to know that it has a duty of care to Ghanaians, not to the EU.
We are completely at a loss as to the import of this announcement at a meeting organized to provide avenue for stakeholders including religious leaders, civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations as well as those in academia to share their views and opinion which would inform governments position moving forward: “Accra, April 17 GNA – Mr Haruna Iddrisu, Minister of Trade and Industry, on Thursday said Ghana would be guided by the collective position of the Economic Community of West African States on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).”
This Minister is clearly confused and probably incompetent. The best way to advance the “Better Ghana” agenda is to listen to Ghanaians, and to defend their interests. The first duty of the Mahama Administration is to listen to Ghanaians who put them there in the first place, and who are going to bear the full brunt of their policies, rather than the ECOWAS colleagues of the President. We expect the President to defend our interests at ECOWAS meetings rather than seeking guidance from them. We add our voices to the call on the Minister of Trade and Industries, Hon. Haruna Iddrisu, to be forthcoming with his much-promised cost benefit analysis of the EPA and make them available for discussion.
We wish to remind the President of his Oath of Office, as we re-iterate the following paragraph of an earlier petition:
“Your Excellency, on the implications of other ECOWAS-EPA provisions not related to goods, we take the example of government procurement. As you have explained on a number of occasions, government procurement serves as a tool by which government can create a stable market for local producers of most of the things that government – from central to local level – purchases; including food supplies for Korle Bu Hospital, pens and pencils for public schools, furniture for government offices, taxi and transport services for government conferences. Governments everywhere, and especially in the developing world, from South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, to Brazil, have used this to encourage domestic businesses. In Ghana, this is crucial for fulfilling our local content policy whether in the oil and gas, mining, timber or any other sectors. …”
Finally, on the issue of alternatives, we insist firmly that civil society organisations, the private sector, and many respectable bodies including the United Nations have demonstrated conclusively that there are credible alternatives to signing the EPAs, including Ghana’s own Interim EPA. If we do not sign the EPA, Ghana will revert automatically to the standard Generalised System (GSP) of trade preferences which will afford the country duty free and quota free for about 72% of Ghanaian exports to the EU. The 28% of exports which will be affected, mainly exporters of tuna, vegetables, fruits and cocoa paste will have to pay extra duties of 52 million dollars in order to access the EU market. However, Ghana will save revenue on import duties to the tune of 378 million dollars annually in case of no EPA. Therefore the savings from revenue could be used to absorb the extra duties of the exporters in the mean time whilst steps are taken to diversify their exports markets. This way, all others jobs and exporters that depend on the domestic and regional markets will be saved and the nation as a whole avoid the disastrous clauses that forfeit Ghanaian sovereignty and threaten Ghanaian business and agriculture.
For Life, The Environment, and Social Justice!