(AGI) - Accra, 6 ago. - The decision by Ghana government to sign and ratify the Stepping Stone Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union will benefit both parties, William Hanna, the EU Ambassador to Ghana has said. "This new agreement will provide a long term predictable framework to help increase trade and investment. It is a win/win deal for Ghana and the European Union. Ghanaian exporting companies will preserve the duty-free preferences on the European market that today make them competitive. This means, no quotas and no duties on all Ghanaian exports to the European market. This will protect thousands of jobs in Ghana, mainly in the agricultural sector. It will also encourage new investment to create more jobs in the future. In recent years, Ghana has shown that it is competitive in the EU market. As Ghana moves to consolidate its status as a middle income country, Europe will continue to partner it on its journey to create prosperity and sustainable development. This agreement is a stepping stone to new and dynamic relations between Ghana and the European Union,? he said. Exporters to the EU market in the cocoa, tuna and fruit industries made a strong case for the signing of the agreement, saying if the country does not sign their businesses will collapse and the thousands of people they employ will go jobless. In the cocoa sector, for example, where the EU happens to be the largest importer of processed and semi-processed cocoa from Ghana, a 6.1% import tariff will apply to cocoa liquor, 4.2% to cocoa butter, 2.5% on cocoa powder, 19.4% on every box of banana if the country does not sign the agreements. In Ghana, the Economic Partnership Coalition - a group of civil society actors - have been pestering government to do a cost/benefit analysis to determine whether signing or not doing so is better for the country. While negotiations for a regional EPA were still on-going, an interim agreement was initialled in December 2007 by Ghana and the EU. This interim agreement allowed Ghana to avoid any disruption of its exports to the EU after January 1, 2008, the end date for the trade provisions of the Cotonou agreement signed in June 2000. From October 2016, Ghana will continue to enjoy duty-free and quota-free access to the EU only on the basis of ratifying the interim EPA or entry into force of regional EPA. As is the case for the interim EPA, the regional EPA currently under political validation provides duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market for an unlimited period for all imports originating in Ghana. In return, Ghana and other West African countries are expected to gradually liberalise 75% of their imports from the EU over 20 years. In the run up to the debate in Parliament, many companies who are today engaged in exporting to the European market made a strong case for the EPA. However there were also calls for a cost benefit analysis to be carried out. (AGI) .