Wednesday, 21 November 2007
By Edmund Mingle
J. H. Mensah, Chairman of the National Development Planning Commission and a renowned economist, says contrary to the general perception, China’s increasing presence in the Ghanaian economy does not pose a threat to the country.
Rather, it provides trade opportunities which the country should take advantage of for the benefit of the economy, he said.
Making a contribution at a round-table conference to explore the question of whether there is a need for a special policy to manage Ghana’s dealings with China considering the latter’s increasing presence in the markets, Mr. Mensah, a former finance minister, said he was surprised that "we are all spending time working to fight a threat from China, when actually there is none."
He admitted that there were challenges in developing local industries to compete on the international market, but noted that efforts should be made at addressing such challenges by creating well focused trade development programmes.
"Let us decide on a national agenda to grow the industries," adding that China provides a huge market for the country provided the industries could produce enough to export there.
Ghana’s exports to China include cocoa, timber, aluminium waste and scraps, and vegetable products, while China exports to Ghana textiles, electrical goods, leather products, motor vehicles, bicycles and sewing machines.
The Round-table, organised by the Development Policy Institute, a new research think tank, was to discuss options Ghana could consider to protect her small and open economy against the intrusion of Chinese products, some of which are reported to be inferior.
In a period of 30 years, China has moved from a struggling and largely agrarian economy to be the fourth largest in the world after Germany, Japan and the United States.
Her economy has grown at an annual average of 10 per cent since it launched reforms in 1978 and is projected to overtake Germany by 2008.
The panellists at the round table called for a national trade policy to effectively deal with Ghana’s trade relations with other countries to ensure that the country benefited from such relations.
Tony Oteng-Gyasi, President of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), in his presentation noted that the partnership between the two countries should be a win-win situation.
"We need a measured approach to protect our interests in the trade relationship with China and other developed countries," he said.
He called for a restructuring of the Trade and Industry Ministry, saying "the expertise exhibited by modern day trade management activities is not showing at the Ministry."
"We need to manipulate the system to open up China’s market to our advantage," he said, and urged the government "to go at China well prepared with sharpened tools of negotiations."
Nana Akomea, Minister of Manpower, Youth and Employment, who chaired the discussions, described the question of whether Ghana needs a policy on China as a crucial one.
Professor Kwame Karikari, President of the Media Foundation for West Africa, also urged the need to develop measures at taking advantage of China’s surge.
"China will need Africa and we must take advantage of that," he stated.
He suggested a comprehensive trade policy in which issues such as the trade between Ghana and China would be effectively addressed.
Dr. Nii Moi Thompson, Executive Director of the Institute and an economist, told the Times that the Institute, which is about a year old, aims at contributing to the creation of effective policies that could drive the socio-economic growth of the country through building capacity for policy analysis.