The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI) has organised a workshop to educate stakeholders on the application of the Rules of Origin (RoO), under the Trade Related Assistance and Quality Enabling Programme (TRAQUE), towards the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Rules of origin, by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) standards, are the criteria needed to determine the national source of a product. Their importance is derived from the fact that duties and restrictions in several cases depend upon the source of imports.

Trade and Industry Minister, Ekwow Spio-Garbrah said: “A key part to successfully implement the EPA or any trade preference to gain the competitive advantage that trade agreement provides, is to properly implement the correspondent Rules of Origin.”

Government’s decision to sign and ratify the Stepping Stone Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union was opposed by some civil society organisations. However, government and the EU maintains that the deal will benefit both parties.

EU Ambassador, William Hanna, noted that: "This new agreement will provide a long term predictable framework to help increase trade and investment. It is a win/win deal for Ghana and the European Union. Ghanaian exporting companies will preserve the duty-free preferences on the European market that today make them competitive.

This means no quotas and no duties on all Ghanaian exports to the European market. This will protect thousands of jobs in Ghana, mainly in the agricultural sector. It will also encourage new investment to create more jobs in the future.

In recent years Ghana has shown that it is competitive in the EU market. As Ghana moves to consolidate its status as a middle income country, Europe will continue to partner it on its journey to create prosperity and sustainable development. This agreement is a stepping stone to new and dynamic relations between Ghana and the European Union.”

Exporters to the EU market in the cocoa, tuna and fruit industries made a strong case for the signing of the agreement, saying if the country does not sign their businesses will collapse and the thousands of people they employ will go jobless.

In the cocoa sector, for example, where the EU happens to be the largest importer of processed and semi-processed cocoa from Ghana, a 6.1% import tariff will apply to cocoa liquor, 4.2% to cocoa butter, 2.5% on cocoa powder, 19.4% on every box of banana if the country does not sign the agreements.

The Economic Partnership Coalition - a group of civil society actors –hold the view that the deal is inimical to the growth and sustainability of local businesses and will lead to job losses in the long run.

From October 2016, Ghana will continue to enjoy duty-free and quota-free access to the EU only on the basis of ratifying the interim EPA or entry into force of regional EPA.

As is the case for the interim EPA, the regional EPA currently under political validation provides duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market for an unlimited period for all imports originating in Ghana.

In return, Ghana and other West African countries are expected to gradually liberalise 75% of their imports from the EU over 20 years.

“Rules of Origin in the regional EPA are very favourable-providing for asymmetry between West Africa and EU.

With the prime role of determining the economic nationality of a given good, the right implementation of Rules of Origin plays a major role in the implementation of EPA and any trade preference. In accordance with the provisions of the Cotonou Agreement,the countries of the West African region agreed with the EU to negotiate an EPA as a tool for development and regional integration,” Spio-Garbrah said.

TRAQUE Project

The implementation of a Trade Related Assistance and Quality Enabling Programme (TRAQUE) and a financial agreement were signed on January 13, 2011 between the European Commission and the Republic of Ghana.

Funded by the EU with a budget of €15 million the project is expected to support the Ministry of Trade and Industry in private sector development, trade facilitation and capacity building with special attention in industrial strategy and EPA. It also improves trade related capacity, the performance of the Ministry of Trade and Industry and support the National Quality Infrastructure.

With Capacity building to MoTI and support to the national Quality Infrastructure, the project has so far provided supplied calibration, testing metrology and other laboratory equipment to 28 national laboratories in Ghana.It has also facilitated the renocation of modern laboratories for the Food and Drugs Authority,Food Research Institute and the Veterinary Services Directorate.

The TRAQUE programme is under the contracting authority of the National Authorising Office at the Ministry of Finance, and being implemented by MoTI with support from Agriconsulting Europe S.A (AESA).