Mills criticises Economic Partnership Agreement
The President, John Evans Atta Mills has criticised certain clauses in the Draft Economic Partnership Agreement claiming it is meant to allow European countries dump their cheap and highly subsidised goods and services on Ghana. In his view, it is unacceptable for Ghana to fully open its market to the European Union to take over both the wholesale and the retail markets to the detriment of Ghanaians. "Why should we open our market for huge tonnes of rice to be imported at very low tax rate?” he quizzed.
The president made this known in an interaction with the media during his visit to the United Kingdom last week. According to Prof Mills, when given the chance and well assisted, Ghanaian farmers could produce high quality rice in huge tonnage to meet both local and sub-regional demands.
The pronouncement by Ghana’s president throws another wrench into efforts by ECOWAS and the European Commission to finalise the agreement by June this year. Ghana is said to be importing between 500,000 and 600,000 tonnes of rice every year to meet local demand at a period that its rice industry is on the brink of collapse, producing only 40,000 tonnes annually.
Meanwhile, a press release issued by the EC office in Ghana on the EPA says negotiations between West Africa and the European Community is progressing well and a satisfactory conclusion is expected in June 2009. According to the release, European and West African Economic Partnership Agreement negotiators met at technical and senior officials’ level in Brussels in April 2009 to agree on certain issues that had arisen and were not tackled in their earlier meetings.
At the end of the said meeting, the negotiators were said to have significantly progressed towards closing the new trade deal when compromises were found on export taxes and free circulation, and significant progress was achieved on the EPA-related development co-operation as part of the Agreement.
The release indicated that though issues such as services, competition and sustainable development were addressed, they still needed more work. This, it said would be tackled in the forthcoming trade talks. The release further noted that there was the need to reach a compromise on other issues such as Regional levies, the Most Favoured Nation clause and the "non-execution" which are still deadlocked.
According to trade experts, the momentum for EPA signature started building up since the positive meeting of the Regional Preparatory Task Force in December 2008.
Issues ranging from Trade Defence Instruments, Sanitary and Phytosanitary rules, Technical Barriers to Trade, Agriculture and Fisheries, Trade Facilitation, export taxes and market access, as well as services, competition, the EPA Programme for Development, dispute settlement, general exceptions, institutional arrangements, EPA final provisions and other EPA-related issues were discussed there and agreed to a large extent.
by Kwabena Amankwah – The Statesman, Ghana