Remarks by Amb. Robert Jackson at AmCham/USAID/Ministry of Trade and Industry Luncheon

Good morning.  I am delighted to be here with so many business leaders, who are doing so much to strengthen commercial ties between America and Ghana.  Thank you to the Ministry of Trade and Industry for being a staunch partner in the quest to facilitate trade between our countries and to make Ghana more competitive in the global market.  And, of course, thanks to the American Chamber of Commerce for organizing today’s event, and for being such a positive force in advancing Ghanaian and American economic exchange.

I am always excited about American Chamber of Commerce events, but today’s event is particularly special.  Today, we are officially releasing a dissemination study on fees and charges at Ghana’s ports.  USAID conducted this study on behalf of the National Trade Facilitation Committee.  Ghana undertook this study as part of its efforts to comply with benchmark guidelines outlined in the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Ghana became a member of the World Trade Organization more than 20 years ago, in 1995.  Last year, Ghana became the 95th country to ratify the Trade Facilitation Agreement.  This is the first multilateral deal concluded in the WTO’s 22-year history.  We applaud Ghana for the role it played in advancing what many refer to as “the greatest trade reform for a generation.”  This agreement finally entered into force in February of this year.

The United States encourages the Government of Ghana to take the greatest possible advantage of the TFA.  Full implementation will simplify customs and other border control procedures.  It will reduce the cost and time of doing business across borders, and make Ghanaian goods more competitive across global markets.  Ghanaian businesses will be able to participate more fully in global value chains.  This will have broad development benefits, and promote regional integration, investment, and exports.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that implementing the TFA could reduce worldwide trade costs by as much as 17.5 percent, with the greatest benefits accruing to African and other developing countries.  Ghana has the potential to benefit significantly from this new opportunity … if it can effect the needed changes and reforms highlighted in this study — reforms and changes that will make a positive impact on Ghana’s global competitiveness, transparency, and ease of doing business rankings.  These are all areas the Government of Ghana has identified as top priorities.

One point to highlight is that — contrary to what many believe — rationalizing and reducing port and customs fees and charges does not necessarily mean lost revenue.  There are benefits to eliminating “nuisance fees and charges,” and to ensuring that when fees and charges are paid out, they are commensurate with service provision.  Such actions are attractive to businesses and facilitate increased trade.

In addition to implementing new reforms outlined in the TFA, Ghana also stands to benefit greatly through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).  The U.S. Congress has extended AGOA through 2025.  This is a tremendous opportunity for Ghana and other African nations to bolster export markets and take full advantage of American consumer demands.  My team has been working with the Government of Ghana on a National AGOA Utilization Strategy that I hope the Ministry of Trade and Industry can launch in the coming days.

In closing, I would like to commend the Government of Ghana for the verbal commitments to improve the trade facilitation and business regulatory environment, and efforts to improve port efficiency.  We like what you are saying about increasing transparency, fighting corruption, and improving the ease of doing business in Ghana.  American companies are excited about the possibilities.  But they will need to see action and tangible results.  We are looking to the government to hold people accountable when laws are broken.  We need to see a court system that works more efficiently and is willing to prosecute and convict guilty parties.  We hope to see greater use of technology — technology that will

  • facilitate business registrations and payment of fees,
  • provide clear standards of service, and
  • help ensure transparency in the procurement process and in business transactions.

I hope today’s presentation will stimulate discussion; make people think about current trade practices at the ports; and spur citizens to ask some hard questions of themselves and their government officials.

Ghana has tremendous potential to be “the trade gateway of Africa.”  The United States will work with you to create an enabling business environment that builds on your economic and political stability and creates jobs for the citizens of both our countries.  But the choice is ultimately up to the government and people of Ghana:  what do you want the future of Ghana to be?

Thank you very much.