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Business News of Friday, 20 November 2015

Source: GNA

Ghana strategises on Economic Partnership Agreement

Stakeholders on Wednesday, met at a validation workshop to review and impute into the draft Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) Accompanying Measures Strategy.

The EPA Accompanying Measures Strategy provides the roadmap and strategic framework for utilising the EPA Development Programmes (EPADP), and other resources, to ensure that Ghana is fully prepared to maximise the opportunities and meet the challenges of the Agreement.

Mr Dawarnoba Baeka, Chief Director of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, at the opening of the workshop, said the EPA Accompanying Measures Strategy has been formulated with a participatory approach spanning considerable consultation with both the public and private sectors across the 10 regions of Ghana.

He said it gave a strategic direction and thrust for mobilising financial and material resources, including those projected within the EPADP, towards maximising the contribution that the Agreement could make to the country’s development goals.

He said these include measures for fully realising the benefits of regional integration, for stimulating investment, and in particular European Union (EU) investment in Ghana’s businesses and economy, as well as processes for promoting exports and addressing sanitary and technical barriers to trade, and for preparing the country to protect import competing industries from unfair trade practices.

Mr Baeka said it was firmly believed that trade and investment offers unrivalled opportunities for productivity growth and development, and thereby the reduction of poverty and improvement of living standards in the country.

He said implementing this Strategy would ensure that the EPA was seized as a springboard for such trade and investment and result in a measurable impact on the Ghanaian economy.

According to him the buy-in and political of these goals and the EPA Accompanying Measures Strategy have established at the highest level and it was now imperative that all stakeholders participate in, endorse, and hold each other accountable to the Strategy.

Mr William Hanna, Head of the European Union delegation to Ghana, applauded the adoption of the EPA accompanying measures strategy by the country shows her commitment to implement the Agreement, and to set up the measures that would prepare the country to meet the challenges and maximise the emerging opportunities derived from the EPA.

He however urged government to improve upon the business environment by ensuring fiscal discipline and macro-economic stability, as more predictability for businesses and investors would restore investor confidence.

He also touched on the issue of corruption, which was very damaging to industry, and encouraged more visible actions from government, with a focus on sanctions and prosecutions.

He said the EU would launch a programme next month, to support in the fight against corruption, and encouraged the private sector, civil society and government leadership to join in the alliance against the canker.

Mr Hanna said the EU was already supporting Ghana with the Trade Related Assistance and Quality Enabling Programme which promotes trade-led growth, and aims at substantially improving the quality infrastructure, making the private sector more competitive and ready to export to the European market.

He said the EU would do more to enhance the competitiveness of the private sector and stimulate job creation, as well as productive investments into agriculture to promote trade within ECOWAS and with the EU.

The EU, he said would support this transition to a new economic partnership by creating opportunities and by increasing companies’ competitiveness, while protecting vulnerable producers, but this would require Ghana to undertake associated reforms, to create the adequate enabling business environment and reforms to facilitate trade flows.

He said the EU encourages Ghana to adopt a more pro-business policy and to reduce the costs and time associated with doing business would also support, citing that policy uncertainty, burdensome rules, and last minute changes in regulations need to be avoided.

Dr Eric Osei-Assibey, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Ghana Business School, explained that the renewal of the EPA after the initial one expired last year was necessary to sustain the country’s trade entry unto the EU market.

According to him Europe has been Ghana’s leading trade and investment partner, taking 46 per cent of its exports in 2013, European countries have invested more than six billion Euros in the country over the past 20 years, and have also provided new investments of more than 500 million Euros in the first half of 2015 alone.

He said with the new agreement Ghana’s was allowed a 100 per cent duty free entry of non-traditional export products unto the EU market, while the later was allowed 75 per cent unto the country.

He said the feared disadvantage of the pact was the dreaded influx of cheap European goods unto Ghana and a reduction in government revenue of import taxes for development projects.

Dr Osei-Assibey said there was the need to safeguard measures to prevent the negative impact of the EPA.