Trade and Industry Minister Hannah Tetteh said on Thursday that an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs) pact between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the European Union would be the best option for Ghana and other countries in the sub-region.
In an address read for her at the special Ghana Day event organized by the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA ) at the 7th Abuja International Trade Fair, Ms Tetteh said even though Ghana had initialed the interim EPAs as a fall back should ECOWAS not reach a consensus within the stipulated timeframe, the best option would be the ECOWAS EPA.
The EU is seeking under the EPAs a reciprocal trade arrangement with the countries in the African, Caribbean and Pacific States.
“It is undisputable that an ECOWAS EPA will not only facilitate ECOWAS region to conduct business and deepen collaboration with their counterparts in giant economies like China,” she said in a speech read on her behalf by Mr Gerald Nyarko-Mensah, Director of Export Trade at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
The GEPA is coordinating the participation of 51 Ghanaian companies in the Abuja fair with products ranging from cocoa products, textiles and garments, handicrafts, ceramics, natural herbal products, educational services, among others.
The Ghana Special Day event was attended by members of the diplomatic corps, business men and officials of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture.
The Minister asked all stakeholders in the sub-region to show extra commitment to the integration agenda and to the implementation of the various ECOWAS protocols.
She said there was the urgent need to complete negotiations on achieving a customs union, single currency and secure full implementation of the ECOWAS protocols, particularly the ECOWAS Trade Liberlisation Scheme in order to maximize the benefits of regional trade.
“Our persistent failure to meet the convergence criteria in times past has led us to set a new deadline of 2015. We must be guided by a sense of urgency to complete these negotiations as we cannot afford to continue to ignore the benefits of regional trade,” Ms Tetteh said.
She said the Ministry of Trade and Industry was pursuing the agenda for export-led growth in the belief that economic growth would be achieved through increased international trade hence the commitment to encourage the export sector, improve the competitiveness of local industries and the country as business destination.
Mr Stephen Normeshie, Acting Chief Executive Officer of GEPA, in a speech read by Mr Samuel Brew, said despite the challenges encountered in transporting exhibitors’ goods to Abuja, the Export Authority achieved its objective for coordinating the country’s participation in the fair.
He said the fair created trade opportunities between the private sectors in Ghana and Nigeria and deepened relations between the public institutions in both countries.
Mr Normeshie said GEPA under the auspices of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, was mainstreaming services exports, especially in the areas of health and education, into the non-traditional export portfolio.
He said Ghana plans to have a permanent exhibition centre in Abuja and expressed the hope that to identify a suitable local partner from Nigeria to operate the Ghana Trade Centre to serve as an apt avenue to taste and have Ghanaian products.
Dr Abdul Nasiru Issahaku, Chief Executive of Export Development, Agriculture and Investment Fund, said the institution was ready to provide financial support to small scale businesses to expand.