General News of Thursday, 24 April 2014
President John Dramani Mahama has pledged Ghana’s support for an Economic Partnership Agreement negotiated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), warning “it will be disastrous if we implement the EPA unilaterally as individual countries.”
Ghana, he said, will support ongoing regional efforts at coming up with an agreeable position to resolve the lingering issues that have stalled the signing of the controversial EPA proposed by the European Union.
“I wish to state that Ghana is in favour of the negotiation of a sub-regional EPA,” Mr. Mahama, who is also the new Chairman of ECOWAS, said on Wednesday. He was speaking at the Flagstaff House during a meeting with a delegation of ECOWAS parliamentarians led by the Regional Assembly’s Speaker, Senator Ike Ekweremadu.
The ECOWAS parliamentarians were at the Flagstaff House to congratulate President Mahama on his recent election as Chairman of the regional economic bloc. The delegation also used the visit to urge the President to, with the support of the ECOWAS Parliament, use his mandate to engineer change in the sub-region.
In his speech to the visiting delegation, President Mahama said there was an urgent need for ECOWAS to work to resolve the issues that have stalled the signing of the EPA.
“Ghana will continue to play a facilitative role, especially now that we have assumed the Chairmanship of ECOWAS,” he said. “It is our intention to call a meeting of a technical grouping to narrow down the issues that are outstanding, so that we can move ahead and complete the negotiations of the EPA with the European Union.”
He was hopeful the initiative would receive the support of the ECOWAS Parliament.
The ECOWAS Chairman lamented the low volume of trade amongst countries in the sub-region and promised to push for a new drive that will trigger aggressive intra-regional trade.
Commenting on the various trade barriers that undermine smooth intra-regional trade, President Mahama challenged various Heads of State with ECOWAS to work urgently and remove barriers that hinder trade.
According to him, more economic opportunities exist in trade between the various countries in the sub-region than with any other region. He said rather than think of the negative effects of liberalizing trade amongst the countries of West Africa, aggressive intra-regional trade should be seen by ECOWAS leaders as a tool that will fast-track the region’s economic development.
Turning his attention to some other issues affecting the region, President Mahama expressed optimism that, with the help of both the ECOWAS Parliament and leaders from the region, the prevailing challenges undermining the growth of various member-states will be addressed.
President Mahama condemned terror group, Boko Haram, for its incessant bloody attacks on innocent citizens in neighboring Nigeria, promising to galvanize support amongst ECOWAS states to deal with the security threats posed by the Islamist group.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, presented an official letter, congratulating President Mahama on his assumption of office as ECOWAS Chairman.
In his speech, Senator Ike Ekweremadu pledged that regional parliamentary bloc will support President Mahama in his drive to give a new life to ECOWAS.
The delegation included Ghana’s Speaker of Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho, First Deputy Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, Ebo Barton Odro and Ghanaian MPs who are members of the ECOWAS Parliament.
The Members of the ECOWAS Parliament are in Ghana for a two-day-summit that will discuss, among other things, key issues affecting free movement of people and goods in the sub-region. The summit, to be held at the Accra International Conference Centre from the 24th to the 25th of April 2014, will also discuss opportunities for trade and finance for ECOWAS member-states.