General News of Saturday, 19 April 2014
Stern critic of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), Bernard Mornah says last Thursday’s forum to discuss the controversial trade agreement was a just a media gimmick.
According to him, goings on at the forum leave him without a shred of doubt that “government is hell bent on signing the EPA”.
Government, under the auspices of the Ministry of Trade held a stakeholders' forum on Thursday April 17 on the European Union (EU) conceived Economic Partnership Agreement.
The EPAs allow Ghana and other African Caribbean Pacific countries who sign it, to have 100 percent access to the European market, except for rice and sugar, while EU countries will have 75 percent access to the Ghanaian market duty free and quota free.
The stakeholder's forum, which saw the heckling of Mr Claude Maerten, EU representative in Ghana by civil society groups opposed to the agreement, was organised to tease out issues in the EPA.
It was aimed at providing an 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 government’s position moving forward.
The General Secretary of the People’s National Convention (PNC) pointed to the selection of Mr Sidney Casely-Hayford as facilitator of the event, as one of the biggest flaws of the event.
He said Mr Casely-Hayford's selection as moderator of the forum was the height of bias because he (Casely-Hayford) "has defended the EPAs to his marrow".
"This is somebody who is totally committed that Ghana should auction under the EPA...He came to give a presentation in support of EPA and now was to facilitate the processes. So he decides who should talk, who should not talk and for how long," he noted.
He said he was therefore not alarmed by Mr Casely-Hayford's style of moderation - explaining that when someone spoke in favour of signing the agreement, the moderator added his own input by "summarsing" key points but when someone spoke in opposition he made no summary of key points.
Speaking as a panel on Radio Gold's "Alhaji and Alhaji" news analysis programme Saturday, he said the situation was so bad that he had to personally tell Mr Casely-Hayford at a point to stop his bias since the forum was aimed at gathering inputs to inform Ghana's position on the trade agreement.
He also notes that although the newspaper adverts of the forum indicated that Mr Joe Abbey and Dr Yaw Graham would be debating the pros and cons of the trade agreement that is not what happened at the event.
He said he was "shocked" when Minister of Trade, Haruna Iddrisu, and other guests of honour set the discussion rolling by "eulogising" the EPA without a single allusion to some of the negatives being highlighted by civil society groups.
"The worst of all in this presentation that I witnessed from these two Ministers [current trade Minister and a former trade Minister] is that in the discussion on the EPA, all they talked about was the goods in trade [the export component of the trade agreement].
But Mr Mornah states that the EPA is broader than exports.
He notes that when Ghana signs the EPA, government's procurement would be libreralised to the detriment of local goods.
"How can the President [John Mahama] promote made-in Ghana goods when we have liberalised procurement?", he asked.
The only way Ghana can produce and sustain its troubled rice industry for instance is for government to decide that state institutions (schools) must buy made-in Ghana rice, according to Mr Mornah.
"But under the liberalised procurement in this EPA, the government cannot do that", he notes.