Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kyeremanten, has stated, and we agree, that the only way the country can benefit fully from trade agreements with other countries is when we increase the production of goods for export.
Speaking at the 28th Anniversary of the African Industrialisation Day in Accra, Mr. Kyeremanten lamented how Ghana has not fully taken advantage of AGOA, a duty-free and quota free trade arrangement that allows to export as many as 6,400 products to the United States of America.
East Asian countries were able to break through because their citizenry could produce in large volumes and export same, which was able to earn them foreign exchange and made them globally competitive.
With such opportunities to make it into the world’s largest market and trade in goods that the country has a comparative advantage in producing like agro-industrial products, garment/textiles, among others, we have failed woefully to meet market standards, volumes, and timelines.
This has made us miss huge opportunities whilst our young people are desperately in need of jobs.
Since we have not built our capacity to meet market standards, we have tended to lose out big time! Take, for instance, the losses we incurred when the EU banned our vegetables from entering its market because of phytosanitary considerations. It cost the country US$36 million for the two-year ban, according to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
Whilst Alan Kyeremanten is very right in his pronouncements, the onus rests on his shoulders to come up with the plans that would boost our capacity to take advantage of bilateral and multi-lateral trade arrangements.
As he rightly put it, Africa is moving towards a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), yet intra-African trade is one of the lowest among regions of the world, with a paltry 12 percent of global trade.
There is little doubt that Ghanaians, in the main, are very enterprising people but they need to build their export capacity to meet market requirements, which can be very demanding in terms of packaging, traceability, and labelling, among others.
Government needs to put its money where its mouth is, as the saying goes, and help industry produce more, without compromising standards, and export more. Need one say that the end result would be more taxes, more jobs and better overall economic development?