Ghanaian Trade and Industry Minister Alan Kyerematen, has called on African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to ask for a World Trade Organisation (WTO) waiver to avoid signing an unfavourable Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the European Union (EU) by the 31 December deadline this year.
“Unless we do that we will run into a deadlock by the end of this year without a waiver and without an alternative trading arrangement which will exist between the EU and the ACP countries,” he told journalists in Accra on Wednesday.
According to the Minister, without a waiver and a clear alternative trading arrangement to replace the current regime, the EPA negotiations could stall.
With the EPAs, ACP countries would be migrating to a new reciprocal trading regime, expected to provide them concessions on access to EU markets when the agreement comes into effect by January 2008.
But while the EU has promised development aid and unrestricted access of ACP countries goods to its market, civil society advocacy groups such as Oxfam and Third World Network, say the deal could be costly to the economies of developing countries because local industries would be unable to compete with the cheap and subsidised goods from Europe.
Also, the removal of tariffs on European goods under the EPAs is expected to result in loss of revenue since ACP countries would be unable to export enough to meet the shortfall in taxes because of low production.
ECOWAS Ministers have since requested the extension of the deadline by three years so the region could address the supply side constraints, which have made it impossible for most ACP countries to export to the EU.
Admitting that most ACP countries were not ready for the EPAs, Kyerematen said time was running out, and with the current difficulties in getting a waiver at the WTO, the solution to the problems did not lie in EU’s insistence on ACP countries signing or refusing to sign.
“You do need to have a trading system that is compatible to WTO. Both the EU and ACP countries must get real on how to deal with the issues. Unless you trade you cannot survive as a nation,” he stressed.
The Minister said the real challenge was the EU winning the trust of the ACP countries that it would deliver on the promises and pledges being made under the agreement.
It has become a question of credibility and confidence, Kyerematen added.