Eight trade associations in the country have cautioned that the proposed Export and Import Restrictions Bill could strain trade relations and create tensions between Ghana and its key trading partners, such as the US, UK, Canada and the European Union. 

Trade

• K. T. Hammond — Minster, Trade and Industry

They argued that measures that restrict the flow of goods could undermine the spirit of trade partnership agreements and hinder the smooth operation of trade between Ghana and its international partners.  

The eight trade associations are the American Chamber of Commerce in Ghana (AMCHAM); the UK-Ghana Chamber of Commerce (UKGCC); the Chamber of Commerce and Industry France Ghana (CCIFG); European Chamber of Commerce in Ghana (EUROCHAM); Canada Ghana Chamber of Commerce (CANCHAM); Ghana Netherlands Business and Culture Council (GNBCC); Ghana South Africa Business Chamber (GSABC); and the Spain Ghana Chamber of Commerce (SGCC).

Export-Import Bill

The government last year presented the Legislative Instrument (LI) on the Export and Import Bill which seeks to restrict the importation of some selected products to Parliament.

The L.I. when approved would compel importers of 24 restricted items, including poultry, rice, sugar, diapers and animal intestines (yemuadie) to seek licences from a committee to be set up by the minister.

After several resistance from the Minority in Parliament and trade associations across the country, the government suspended the Bill to allow for further stakeholder consultations.

Commitment

In a joint release issued and co-signed by the eight trade associations, they said they were local employers with a demonstrated commitment to producing in Ghana and sourcing locally for their production within Ghana where possible.

They, therefore, noted that a permitting committee that directs who could import and to what extent, was not a measure that they would seek as a means to increase their competitiveness. 

“On the contrary, we can see scenarios where the resulting higher prices of production and distortions to competition could create a more challenging environment as a result,” they noted.

Choosing importers

The trade associations also raised concerns over the government having to choose importers of certain products into the country.

They said that was a break from international trade norms and distorted the natural and competitive aspect of international business, and added that the measure did not take into account some practical aspects of international trade and how businesses planned their operations. 

“Suppliers assess and choose who they think is qualified to serve as an authorised distributor or representative in a foreign market. 

“A committee in Ghana selecting and limiting the importers through a permitting process would distort this natural and competitive aspect of international business,” the release highlighted.

Disruption of supply chains

The trade associations also added that the proposed bill would disrupt the supply chains of individual companies concerning inputs.

“As manufacturers and processors, we use many of the products on the list as intermediary inputs into our production within Ghana. We have all come to appreciate the importance of supply chains during the pandemic and how critical they are to our business competitiveness and resilience. 

“We are concerned that this measure would disrupt individual companies and industries’ supply chains for inputs,” the release noted.

They argued that there was not enough domestic supply or supply at a consistent quality level to satisfy the level of needed inputs for the production of some goods and services in Ghana.

“Without a clear sense of whether we will have a consistent supply of specialised plastic, oil, poultry, metal, sugar, or other input into production or packaging, we will not be able to plan and invest on time. 

“Trying to anticipate possible quota levels, whether we would obtain a permit or not, and whether a permit would be renewed or not creates additional static for business planning in an already challenging macroeconomic environment,” they added.

Contractual obligations 

They also pointed out that some of the companies that were franchisees had contractual obligations with franchisors about the use of inputs that met certain quality standards.  

By restricting supply to those individuals/companies that the committee chooses to provide a permit for, they said local franchisees that employed 1000s of Ghanaians could be forced to take supplies that they could not even use, which could result in not meeting quality standards and closure of aspects of their operations. 

 
Tools to deal with trade concerns 

The trade associations were of the view that Ghana had other tools to deal with legitimate trade concerns, adding that there were already multiple measures, policies and taxes on some of the products on the list.  

They noted that used clothing had been subject to a major tariff increase, while used autos were also subject to various policies, including a special valuation regime and proposed inspection regime.  

“The industry has worked with the government regarding a range of sugar policies and taxes. Poultry is already subject to import permits. Some plastics already attract special taxes,” they said.

SOURCE : https://www.graphic.com.gh/business/business-news/export-and-import-restrictions-bill-trade-chambers-worried-about-impact-on-businesses.html