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Business News of Friday, 22 February 2008

Source: GNA

Business community happy with interim EPA - Trade Minister

Accra, Feb. 22, GNA - Ghana's signing of the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), has put to rest the feeling of anxiety that prevailed within the local business circles, Mr Joe Baidoo-Ansah, Minister of Trade, Industry and President's Special Initiatives observed on Friday.

He said the interim arrangement under the EPA with the European Union (EU) avoided trade disruptions that would have occurred after the expiration on December 31, 2007 of Ghana's preferential trade regime under the Cotonou Agreement.

So far Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire are the only two ECOWAS countries that have signed the interim arrangement, which would allow their exports to enter the EU markets duty and quota free, while awaiting other countries in the region to conclude full negotiations of an EPA with the Union.

Reacting to whether the anxiety of the business community on the EPA had been put to rest, Mr Cletus Kosiba, Executive Director of the Association of Ghana Industry told the GNA that perhaps the "praise song" was being sang by the exporters and not the entire business circles.

He said a lot still needed to be done within the agreement by way of tariffs determination on certain sensitive commodities in order to protect and encourage the local producers. The Trade Minister made the remarks when he opened the 12th Ghana International Trade Fair at the Ghana Trade Fair Centre at La in Accra, which is attracting about 1,100 exhibitors under the theme: "Promoting Trade and Investment."

Mr Baidoo-Ansah said the large participation in this year's fair, especially the increase in the number of foreign companies gave credence to the fact that Ghana was opened for more businesses.

He urged Small and Medium Scale enterprises (SMEs) participating in the fair to take advantage and build the necessary networks and partnerships that would enable them to promote and expand their businesses.

"It is also important to bear in mind that fairs like this nature provide unique opportunities to forge strategic alliances necessary for accessing modern technology," Mr Baidoo-Ansah told the participants. He said it was also important for local participants to use the fair to pay particular attention to issues relating to quality standards and packaging because it was what would enable them stay competitive in the global market place.

Mr Baidoo-Ansah referred to the upcoming 5th ECOWAS Trade Fair in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso from March 7 to 15, 2008 and urged local exhibitors to take advantage to participate. Mrs Esther Ofori, Chief Executive of the Ghana Trade Fair Company said the objective of the fair was not only to promote made-in Ghana goods but also to provide the platform to local producers and businesses to establish ties and expand their businesses. She said the Company was poised to transform the Ghana Trade Fair Centre into a multi-international, world-class trade centre to attract many more giant foreign companies into the country. 22 Feb. 08