Trade Minister urges commitment to ECOWAS integration agenda

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Abuja, Oct. 6, GNA -Trade and Industry Minister Ms Hannah Tetteh has called all stakeholders in the West African sub-region to show extra commitment to the integration agenda and the implementation of 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 ignoring the benefits of regional trade,” Ms Tetteh 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 Minister was speaking at the celebration of ‘Ghana Day’, organized by the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) at the ongoing Abuja International Trade fair, which is running from 27th September to 8th October.
     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 Minister also asked the ECOWAS to work to conclude the negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreements to enhance trade in the sub-region, saying that, a pact between the sub-regional bloc and the European Union would be the best option for Ghana and other countries in the sub-region.
     Ms Tetteh said even though Ghana had initialled the interim EPAs as a fall back, should ECOWAS not be able to reach a consensus within the stipulated timeframe, the best option would be the ECOWAS EPA.
     The EU is seeking under the EPA’s, 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 the ECOWAS region to conduct business and deepen collaboration with their counterparts in giant economies like China,” she said.
     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 it would 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 Officer of the Export Development, Agriculture and Investment Fund, said the institution was ready to provide financial support to small scale businesses to expand.

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