William Hanna, Ambassador of the European Union (EU), has said the 28-member economic bloc envisions its cooperation with Ghana developing into a partnership characterised less by aid and more by strong trade and investment ties.
The EU is currently the country’s biggest trading partner, accounting for around 30 percent of the Ghana’s exports and imports. It is also the largest source of foreign direct investment and provides more development assistance to Ghana than other donors.
Speaking in his first major press interaction since his appointment as the EU’s most senior diplomat in the country, Mr. Hanna – an Irish who previously was an ambassador in Tanzania, Uruguay and Bangladesh – said it is important in the long-term for the EU-Ghana partnership to emphasise trade and investment, with the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) as the cornerstone of bilateral relations.
“In the long term, I see the aid part declining. We want to move towards a more mature partnership, which is more towards our joint interests,” Ambassador Hanna said. “The truth is our business people want to invest here and make money, and Ghanaians want to have a market for their products.”
He said the next stage for ushering in the ECOWAS EPA is for West Africa to sign the document and proceed to ratification by its national governments.
After 12 years of back-and-forth negotiations, ECOWAS leaders, at a summit in July, endorsed the final EPA, which had been negotiated by technical teams from both sides.
The EPA will allow the EU free access to 75 percent of West Africa’s market in exchange for total liberalisation on the EU side.
The European bloc has also pledged to provide €6.5billion worth of aid to help West Africa cope with adjustment to the EPA.
Mr. Hanna described ECOWAS’ endorsement of the agreement as “a tremendous step forward, which will bring growth, prosperity and jobs to Ghana and to the region.”
Like his predecessor, he defended the current deal, saying it will foster, rather than harm, regional integration and help Ghana meet its ambition to develop manufacturing rapidly and create more jobs for the population.
“If you want to have manufacturing, you need to have access to the market and you need to have investment. The EPA will help to sustain growth, investment and job-creation,” he stressed.
Mr. Hanna also laid out other pillars of EU cooperation with Ghana, noting particularly the country’s important role and leadership in efforts and strategies to secure peace and security within West Africa.
The EU also seeks to support sustainable economic and social development, which includes improvement of the environment and sustainable management of natural resources such as forests and fisheries.
On the battle to contain the spread of Ebola, Mr. Hanna disclosed that the EU and its member states have to date voted in excess of €500 million to support international efforts against the deadly virus.
Much of this assistance is being provided to the worst-affected countries in West Africa. The EU will also support Ghana to take preventive action against Ebola and help the country prepare to cope with the virus if it spreads.
source : B & FT