The EPA is a document by the European Union advocating free trade agreements with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
The content of this Agreement includes the proposal that the ACP countries liberalize almost 90 per cent of all their productive capacity, substantially covering all forms of trade in which there are no duties on goods imported and exported between the two groups.
The EPA is based on a principle of reciprocity.
But the big question is: “Can Africa, and for that matter Ghana, compete with Europe?”
A number of people GNA spoke to, including the educated working class, had not heard about the EPA before or what it stood for.
It was therefore in the right direction, when Mr Bernard Mornah, National Youth Organizer of People’s National Convention (PNC), called for the involvement of the people in the decision to sign the agreement scheduled for December 31, 2007.
He called for citizens’ involvement and participation in deciding the EPA with the argument that the negotiations could not be limited to only heads of state and Ministers since it was crucial and could affect the future of Ghana and Africa as a whole.
An example currently is the effect on the agricultural sector. Although Europe subsidizes her farmers, Ghana does not do that.
What this means is that poultry produced in Ghana is likely to be three times more expensive than imported frozen chicken.
The poultry industry in Ghana has some serious challenges, because the price of imported frozen chicken is far cheaper than locally produced chicken and the Ghanaian farmer is at a disadvantage.
This applies to other agricultural produce. There is an ongoing campaign in the country to promote local rice production and consumption, but it is not surprising that many people prefer the imported rice. The reasons are that the consumer erroneously thinks the quality of locally produced rice is lower.
It is, however, not surprising that most Ghanaians do not know about the EPA, let alone its implications.
But how is the ordinary Ghanaian supposed to know?
I did not know about the EPA until I had the opportunity to join an NGO called “Dedederkamer” or the Third Chamber, a Netherlands-based organization that advocates strengthened political support for international cooperation and sustainable development.
The real eye opening came when Ms Maria Martens, a Member of Parliament in the European Parliament, made a statement that African leaders did not have the capacity to negotiate with their counterpart Europeans.
It may be true that African leaders do not have the capacity to negotiate such things with their European counterparts, but does it mean that Europe has the solution to Africa’s problems?
Is this EPA going to solve Africa’s problem? Standards are set by Europe, and Africa is supposed to follow, how do we then trade with them as equal partners.
Can we agree with the Convention People’s Party (CPP) that the relationship between Africa and Europe under the guise of EPA is one of the subtle forms of neo-colonialism?
“The commitment to negotiate a new agreement between the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) and the European Union by December 31, 2007 must be understood as a continuation of the classical relationship of a colonial economy and its metropolitan patron,” Mr Oteng Anane, Youth Organizer of the Party said.
How prepared is Africa to safeguard its economy from subsidized and cheap European goods flooding our markets.”
Should the removal of trade barriers on more than 60 per cent of trade between the EU and ACP be sealed, as EPA in its current form posits, then it is likely that our local industries, especially the agricultural sector, will eventually collapse.
Mr Anane observed: “It will, in the long-run produce an economy of young people with skills that do not meet the challenges of the economic regime. In short, the nation will find herself in an economic system that does not support her own initiative.”
The operations of the EU, he said, would not only discriminate against Ghana and other African countries but would also perpetuate the many artificial barriers, which were imposed on Africa by the European colonial masters.
Referring to the Cotonou Agreement, the CPP Youth Organizer noted that instead of contributing to regional integration, the EPA sought to undermine regional integration.
Mr Anane called on the ACP negotiators, the government of Ghana and the ECOWAS Secretariat to see the need for the EPA to be youth specific and to be design to meet the countries’ youth development agenda or be informed on the possible implications of the EPA on youth development.
“We prefer EPA covering 55 percent of all substantive trade and 45 percent of sensitive products for the ACP countries. This will provide sufficient flexibility for the ACP countries…”
He said when the EPA was finally signed it could lead to unfair competition and unemployment, resulting in worsening poverty as well as substantial loss of revenue.
“With 20 percent tariff on poultry entering Ghana, Ghana’s poultry sector which provides about 80,000 jobs to Ghanaians directly and 450,000 indirectly has been priced-out.”
Dr. Dick Niezer, EU representative, however, defends the EPA saying it is made in the best interest of Ghana, Africa and future generations.
He explained that the EU had only given a proposal and was waiting for the ACP to bring their own proposal so that the two parties could come to a compromise.
How true is this? Isn’t the EU in business with Africa? This is a wake up call for Ghanaians to be interested in development cooperation.
The decisions taken by the European Union at any point in time go a long way to affect “you” as an individual and “us” as a nation. How do we deal with this?
To quote Archbishop Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle, Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Accra, the media must exist to form, inform and transform.
Yes. But civil society also has a role to play in making this a possibility. We cannot sit idle and let Europe form, inform and transform Africa in their own way. Let’s get involved.
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