The issue of dumping and piracy associated with retail business will not be affected under the new Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA), for which Ghana has been selected to host its Secretariat, Trade Minister Alan Kyerematen has said.
AfCTA is a Single Market (Duty-free, Quota-free) trading bloc covering the entire African continent with a total population of 1.2billion and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of almost US$3trillion.
Presenting a statement on the floor of Parliament in Accra on the AfCTA and Ghana’s selection as the host country for the AfCTA Secretariat, he stated that the requirement for bringing the agreement into force is for 22 countries to ratify the agreement.
On whether small or retail business will be affected by the new agreement, he indicated that government has taken steps to avert this; and the agreement even has a dispute mechanism to deal with such challenges.
“We as a government, with or without the CFTA, were already positioning ourselves to support producers to compete because this is a global market.
“We have already implemented programme interventions that are designed to support our companies to compete; but if there are incidences of dumping or piracy, the Ghana International Trade Commission that has been established under this government has the legal authority to deal with any trade remedies including dumping, and there are areas of addressing such incidence of trade malpractice. But beyond this, I have also established there is now a dispute-settling mechanism within the context of the CFTA agreement which allows any individual that feels aggrieved to file a dispute,” he told journalists in an interview at Parliament House, Accra.
According to the minister, as part of the legal framework, signatories to the agreement have negotiated a protocol on the settlement of disputes as part of the CFTA.
“This is very significant development. It means that when there are instances of violations of the protocol – as do occur for example under ECOWAS – in this particular case you have a recourse to a dispute settlement mechanism as currently exists under the WTO.
“There are a number of operational instruments which have been developed to give effect to smooth and efficient running of this CFTA, learning from the experience of not only ECOWAS but also other regional economic communities.”
One of these instruments, he pointed out for example, is an online platform for reporting and monitoring the incidence of non-tariff barriers. “So, for example, a trader that is seeking to move products from Ghana to Angola –if operating under the regime of the regional economic communities – could face problems because there is no mechanism for reporting the incidence of such non-tariff barriers.”
In this particular case, this online-platform provides immediate real-time access for you to report and receive feedback from the Secretariat on how we are going to deal with that particular challenge; whether it is a physical barrier or an incidence of corruption, he noted.
He also added that it is in government’s interest to allow the private sector, particularly the small and medium enterprises in the country, to leverage this opportunity to enhance their own competitiveness.
By creating a market of 1.2 billion people, you are expanding access in terms of market opportunities to small and medium enterprises.
“Now all the young boys in Kumasi and other parts of the country who produce wonderful shoes have the opportunity – duty-free, quota-free – to move their products from Kumasi to South Africa.
“It is all about trade and market information; once there is a spotlight on an expanded Africa market, any producer or manufacturer of any product now sees his or her market opportunities not only within ECOWAS but within the context of Africa.”
Presently, 54 out of 55 countries in Africa have so far signed the AfCFTA, with 27 countries having ratified the agreement.
Among the benefits that Africa will derive from implementing the AfCTA is an increase in intra-Africa trade, through better harmonisation and coordination of trade within the African continent.
It is estimated that intra-African trade will increase by as much as US$35billion per annum or 52 percent by 2022.
Also, it is expected to address the challenge of small, fragmented markets in Africa, by creating a single continental market that will lead to economies of scale.
Deputy Majority Leader, Sarah Adwoa Safo, lauded the agreement – maintaining that it will harmonise African trade and add value to its products.
Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, indicated that government should strive to strengthen its trade laws locally before embracing fully the tenets of the agreement, so as to make the local businesses competitive globally.