Panelists at a forum on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in Accra, yesterday, expressed divergent views on the possible benefits of the pact on the Ghanaian economy.
While the participants from the private sector and civil society said, the EPA would not inure to the benefit of the country, those from government side said Ghana would gain a lot from signing the agreement.
The forum, dubbed Graphic Business/Stanbic Bank Breakfast Meeting Series was on the theme “The Economic Partnership Agreement and its implication for businesses in Ghana”.
According to a fact-sheet presented by the Federation of Association of Ghanaian Exporters, the EPA is an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) -European Union (EU) trade agreement that provides a long-term, predictable framework to help increase trade and investment and also help the West African countries to export to Europe quota and duty-free.
Ghana has October, this year, to ratify the agreement; else it would lose its free access of the EU market.
He said in the business and manufacturing sectors, industries as well as small-scale agriculture holders would suffer due to cheap imports of products from Europe.
That, he said, would lead to job losses because most of the industries in the manufacturing sector would send some of their workers home.
Even though the European Union had planned to support the 16 West African countries with 6.5 billion Euros as trade adjustment cost under the EPA for the next five years, Dr Graham said the effects of the agreement would outweigh the amount being given.
“There is a window of opportunity and Ghana should rely on the countries which have not signed on the EPA to negotiate a trade agreement that will be beneficial to the country,” he said.
Nana Osei Bonsu, the Executive Director of the Private Enterprise Federation for his part said businesses in Ghana could not compete with their counterpart in Europe due to the high cost of finance.
He said due to the high cost of capital, businesses in Ghana could not produce at a competitive price and the EPA which give way for goods to be imported into the country duty-free, would worsen the already precarious situation for the private sector.
However, the Director of Foreign Relations at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Nyame Baafi said Ghana would gain a lot from signing on to the EPA.
He said an assessment conducted by the government with the World Bank indicated Ghana stands to benefit a lot from the EPA, stressing the losses Ghana would be made under EPA through import taxes could be reaped through corporate taxes and emphasised the need for the manufacturing sector to be strengthened.
“Ghana has to sign the EPA because if it does not, the country will lose its preferential access to the EU market,” he said.
The Head of Marketing and Communication of Stanbic Bank, Mawuko Afadzinu, in an interview with the Ghanaian Times explained that the aim of the forum was to create an opportunity to discuss the possible impacts of the EPA on businesses and the Ghanaian economy.
The Managing Director of GCGL, Kenneth Ashigbey said the programme formed part of his outfit’s contribution to the business discourse of the country.
By Kingsley Asare