Government would by the end of the first quarter of 2014, conclude a deal with the European Union (EU) on an interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) to protect the country’s export products to the EU market.
The agreement would be subject to stakeholder consultative discussion on issues such as the future of Ghana’s exports, market size and duration and how these would be realigned with the common Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) tariff agreement.
Mr Haruna Iddrisu, Minister of Trade and Industry announced this on Tuesday at the 74th National Exporters’ Forum and Launch of the 2012 Non-Traditional Export (NTE) Statistics, organised in Accra by the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA).
The International Committee of Europe in March deferred to October 2014, the deadline for signing the full agreement with Ghana.
The move nullified the earlier decision by the EU parliament to extend the deadline to 2016 for further negotiations.
Ghana in 2007 initialled the interim EPA to allow 80 per cent of European goods into the Ghanaian market duty-free and quota-free while Ghana will continue to have 100 per cent access to the EU market with the exception of sugar and rice.
EPA is a scheme to create a free trade area between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States.
The Agreement is as a result of criticism that the non-reciprocal and discriminating preferential trade agreements offered by the EU are incompatible with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
Mr Iddrisu advised exporters to obtain the necessary certification from the appropriate government institutions before embarking on exports.
He called on exporters to meet the minimum phytosanitary measures required by many of Ghana’s major trading partners, stressing that, compliance is critical for the credibility and image of the products that leaves the shores of the country.
Under the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards agreement, the WTO set constraints on member-states’ policies relating to food safety (bacterial contaminants, pesticides, inspection and labelling), as well as animal and plant health with respect to imported pests and diseases.
The Minister said he had issued a directive to the management of the Export Development and Agricultural Investment Fund (EDAIF) to decentralise its operations to make the Fund easily accessible to exporters throughout the country.
Consequently Fund is expected to establish Export Centres across the country.
Mr Iddrisu called on exporters to diversify the direction of their export trade activities and to explore new market opportunities.
He announced that government would support cashew producers through EDAIF to the tune of five million dollars.
Mr Gideon Quarcoo, Chief Executive Officer of GEPA observed that Ghana’s performance of NTEs to the EU market stood at 34.07 per cent in 2012.
He listed Togo, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Guinea and Liberia as the top 10 NTE markets in the ECOWAS sub-region.
He said Ghana needs to redouble efforts in reaching out to the ECOWAS market, stressing that, members are “hungry” for made-in- Ghana products.
The ECOWAS sub-region runs a close second to the EU in terms of Ghana’s NTEs destination. It commands a 31.68 per cent of the market share.
Mr Quarcoo announced that exports of non-traditional products for 2012 amounted to $2.364 billion, representing a decrease of 2.43 per cent in value over the previous earnings of $2.423 billion in 2011.
Mr Kobina Ade Coker, Chairman of the Governing Council of GEPA, expressed optimism that participants at the forum would suggest innovative means to address the challenges that could stall progress made at the export sector.
The National Exporters’ Forum provided the platform for stakeholders in the export sector to discuss solutions to challenges facing them.
Since its inception in 1987, the Forum had served as the pedestal for finding “on the spot” solutions to challenges facing exporters in their business and had informed and educated them on new programmes and policies related to export.