Trade and Industry Minister, Kobina Tahiru Hammond, has explained that the government does not intend to place a total ban on the importation of some strategic products.

Instead, he said the government is only seeking to check the level of importation in a bid to boost local production and reduce the country’s skyrocketing import bill.

The Minority in Parliament has called on President Akufo-Addo to immediately withdraw the Legislative Instrument seeking to restrict the importation of rice, fruit juice, margarine, cement, fish, sugar and 16 other "strategic products."

It says the World Trade Organisation (WTO) frowns on such a policy because it violates its practices. It also says restricting importation will fuel inflation and worsen hardship as there are no ready substitutes. It also expressed worry that traders might not get the license to import products if they do not have ties with the New Patriotic Party when that power is granted to the Minister.

But the Trade Minister says he sees no link between granting permission to individuals to import certain products and corruption.

Speaking on PM Express on JoyNews on Monday, November 27, the Minister addressed the fears of stakeholders that there would be inflation and a high cost of living if imports are restricted as local production may not be able to meet consumption demand.

The Adansi Asokwa MP said there is no cause for alarm, reiterating that what the government is seeking to do is not to ban the importation of strategic products but to restrict them cautiously and responsibly.

He expressed concern about the fact that in 2021 and 2022, Ghana spent 12 and 13 billion dollars respectively on various imported products, putting excessive pressure on the local currency.
“Let me emphasize and underline the point, it is restriction, it’s not a ban. We are not banning anything. Indeed, we cannot even do that. We are constrained by the World Trade Organisation rules not to venture into any of those things. You cannot place restrictions under those regulations which will make it difficult for other countries.

According to him, what the government is seeking to do is allowed by the WTO once the move is geared towards boosting the country’s foreign exchange reserve which is the reason in the case of Ghana.

Asked whether Ghana had notified the WTO about this action, the Trade Minister told the host, Evans Mensah that “we are taking them in stages. We are consistently making the point that we are not banning anything. We are mandated by the rules to conserve our reserves. The WTO would ultimately be informed about the processes we have put in place. We are not banning anything, we are saying that we are restricting by a certain procedure.”

The Minister explained that there would not be a time when the country would suffer any dire consequences since it’s a restriction and not a total ban.

According to him, as and when local production fails to meet demand, there is that flexibility to allow the necessary imports to fill in the gap.

“We are restricting to the extent that we don’t create famine in the country” he assured.

He said various ministries that make up a committee will monitor local production as against the level of importation to ensure that there is no shortage locally and also guard against excessive importation.

“If in the end, the committee through the Agric Ministry tells us that, the deficit between production and consumption in the country is this much and so this much has to be imported, it will be allowed through. It’s as simple as that. To the extent that there won’t be starvation in the country, we’ll ensure that the right quantity is allowed into the country.”

“We’ll be restricting not in the context of banning, but restricted in the context of keeping an eye on it and making sure that at the same time, the production at home is beginning to match our consumption. At a point when there’s equilibrium somewhere, then the system would be looking at whether there’s the need to continue with importation.”

Meanwhile, six business associations have also submitted a petition to Parliament urging the house to reject the import restrictions bill.

The Joint Business Consultative Forum, comprising associations such as the Ghana Union of Traders Associations (GUTA), Food and Beverages Association of Ghana (FABAG), Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana, Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), Chamber of Automobile Dealership Ghana (CADEG), and Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GNCCI), argue that the bill if enacted, would have detrimental effects on their businesses.

The petition, dated Sunday, November 26, outlined concerns that the legislation could negatively impact the prices of goods, disrupt the free flow of goods, and potentially harm businesses.
The Minister for Trade and Industry is seeking to pass an (L.I) to restrict the importation of some strategic products.

The 22 items considered for import restrictions are:

  1. Rice
  2. Guts, bladders and stomachs of animals (offal)
  3. Poultry
  4. Animal and vegetable oil
  5. Margarine
  6. Fruit juices
  7. Soft drink
  8. Mineral water
  9. Noodles and pasta
  10. Ceramic tiles
  11. Corrugated paper and paper board
  12. Mosquito coil and insecticides
  13. Soaps and detergents
  14. Motor cars
  15. Iron and steel
  16. Cement
  17. Polymers (Plastics and Plastic Products)
  18. Fish
  19. Sugar
  20. Clothing and apparel
  21. Biscuits
  22. Canned tomatoes

On three occasions, however, the Minority scuttled plans to lay the regulation which they say they are strongly opposed to because, among other things, it gives the Minister for Trade unbridled power.

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