The EPAs

The Economic Partnership Agreements


Economic partnerships

Economic partnership - Illustration credit: kaysha
For general information on trade with ACP countries, see African, Caribbean, Pacific

Economic Partnership Agreements are being negotiated with African, Caribbean and Pacific regions engaged in a regional economic integration process

The Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific group of countries are aimed at promoting trade between the two groupings - and through trade development, sustainable growth and poverty reduction. The EPAs set out to help ACP countries integrate into the world economy and share in the opportunities offered by globalisation.

For well over 30 years, exports from the ACP countries were given generous access to the European market. Yet preferential access failed to boost local economies and stimulate growth in ACP countries. And the proportion of EU imports from ACP countries dropped from 7% to 3% of EU imports.

The EPAs aim to remedy this situation. EPAs:

  • date back to the signing of the Cotonou Agreement in 2000.
  • are "tailor-made" to suit specific regional circumstances.
  • go beyond conventional free-trade agreements, focusing on ACP development, taking account of their socio-economic circumstances and include co-operation and assistance to help ACPs implement the Agreements.
  • opened up EU markets fully and immediately (unilaterally by the EU since 1st January 2008), but allowed ACPs 15 (and up to 25) years to open up to EU imports while providing protection for the sensitive 20% of imports.
  • provide scope for wide-ranging trade co-operation on areas such as services and standards.
  • are also designed to be drivers of change that will kick-start reform and help strengthen rule of law in the economic field, thereby attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), so helping to create a "virtuous circle" of growth.

Read to the EPA brochure (2011)


Next EPA negotiation rounds:
  • EU - CA Technical meeting, 26-30 September 2011, (CA region - tbc)
  • EU - WA Technical meeting, 3-6 October 2011, Brussels
  • EU - CA Technical meeting, 8-11 November 2011, Accra (Ghana)
  • EU - CA Technical meeting, 14-18 November 2011, Brussels
  • EU - SADC Technical and Senior Officials meeting, 14-18 November 2011, Lesotho
  • EU - EAC Intersession Experts Meeting, Mid-November (tbc), EAC region (tbc)
  • EU - CARIFORUM Special Committee on Customs Cooperation and Trade Facilitation, 9 December, Santo Domingo (tbc)
  • EU - EAC Technical and Senior Officials meeting, December (tbc), Brussels

Details of past events are recorded in Events

Other events:
  • EU Foreign Affairs Council (Ministers for Trade), 26 September, Brussels
  • 6th annual G20 Summit, 3-4 November, Cannes (France)
  • 22nd Joint Parliamentary Assembly, 19-23 November, Freetown (Sierra Leone)
  • EPA Seminar - Promote (International Exhibition for Enterprises, SME and partnerships of Yaoundé), 2-3 December, Yaoundé (Cameroon)
  • Joint EU-ACP Ministerial Trade Committee meeting, 12 December, Brussels
  • 8th WTO Ministerial Conference, 15-17 December, Geneva

Dates and venues may vary and are subject to ad-hoc changes

How EPAs benefit consumers and producers in Europe and developing countries

Properly managed trade can help development by:

  • creating employment
  • giving access to a wider range of good-quality products
  • reducing average prices
  • generating income

EPAs help create the right conditions for trade and investment. Together with development aid, that can deliver a number of benefits for ACP countries:

  • more markets, more sales - by opening the EU market fully to imports from ACP countries, strengthening and boosting trade between ACPcountries themselves
  • better infrastructure, administration and public services - to increase and improve productive capacity, training opportunities and knowledge transfer.
  • more transparency / political and economic stability - political dialogue has become an integral part of the ACP-EU relationship, aiming to uphold democratic standards, good governance and human rights.

In particular, whether you're exporting Ghanaian cocoa to the EU, growing bananas in Kenya, or buying flowers in Marseille, EPAs are closer to your daily life than you might think. EPAs will have direct benefits for people in the Europe and ACP countries.

For European consumers:

  • lower prices - removing trade barriers produces healthy competition on the EU market and lower prices for consumers
  • more choice - exotic new produce from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP countries), and new varieties of familiar goods like coffee, cocoa, mangos, pineapple etc.
  • good quality and good value - tropical products grown in tropical climates
  • jobs - in the long run, trade will help ACP countries become more prosperous. In turn, that will generate more demand for European products and expertise, which will be good for employment.
  • ethical choices - many thousands of small-scale, family-run businesses inACP countries will benefit from being able to sell their produce in the EU.

For farmers and manufacturers in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific:

  • no quotas, no duties on exports to the EU - free access to the EU market of half a billion people for all ACP products, providing plenty of scope for economies of scale
  • access to a larger free market including EFTA countries - including Switzerland and Norway
  • building regional markets - boosting trade between ACP neighbours and regions, with very significant potential benefits for ACP exporters
  • no undue competition - ACP countries will only gradually open their markets to EU imports, and producers of the most sensitive 20% of goods will enjoy permanent protection from competition
  • no shocks - EPAs will be implemented in a way that avoids unnecessary shocks. Duties will be phased out over a period of 15 (and up to a maximum of) 25 years, with safeguards and support on offer for ACP countries that encounter problems.
  • coverage of services and foreign investment - EPAs don't just deal with trade in goods but with issues relating to development too - because trade is development.
  • wider reforms - EPAs are part of the wider development agenda for ACP countries, to strengthen the law, attract local and foreign investment and create the conditions for greater prosperity.
EPAs and the least developed countries

For more information on EU trade with developing countries, see Generalised System of Preferences

Many of the EU's ACP trading partners already have duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market under the "Everything but Arms" (EBA) scheme for the world's least-developed countries (LDCs). But EPAs have much more to offer:

  • EPAs enhance trade - beyond free market access, EPAs come with less strict rules of origin, making it easier for LDCs to export products with inputs from other countries (third-country inputs), especially in key export sectors - agriculture, fisheries and textiles and clothing
  • EPAs tackle co-operation on trade-related issues - EPAs provide an opportunity to address complex issues affecting trade, such as copyright and the environment
  • EPAs boost regional markets and rules - by tagging on to ACP regional integration initiatives, EPAs help promote regional solutions, seen as good for development
  • EPAs provide for a broader approach to trade barriers - the EPA approach recognises that tariffs and quotas aren't the only barriers to trade, and provides a way of addressing wider issues, e.g. poor infrastructure, inefficient customs and border controls, or inadequate standards
  • EPAs bring tailor-made approaches to regional needs - EPAs are worked out in regional negotiations to make sure they take account of regional needs and each country's sensitivities and conditions
  • EPAs safeguard local economies - though ACP countries that sign EPAs must gradually open up to 80% of their markets to EU imports, safeguards ensure that EU products don't compete against locally produced products. So, trade disruption is avoided while local industries and consumers benefit from cheaper inputs and consumer goods.
  • EPAs respect national sovereignty - instead of imposing development strategies, EPAs ask countries to determine their own development strategies and the pace and sequence of reform decisions.
  • EPAs are stable partnerships between EU and ACP countries - EPAs establish viable contracts between equal partners which can't be altered without mutual agreement. This is an important difference compared to EBA (which is granted, and not negotiated, by the EU), favouring long-term planning and investment for development.
EPAs: concrete results

A logistics management company in Lesotho now only has a two-page export application form to fill in rather than the old 23-page form, and the application is processed in 15 minutes rather than 7 days, thanks to the new EU-financed Trade Investment Facility.

Textile producers in Kenya now have access to the rich European market with nearly 500 million consumers - with the added benefit of less strict Rules of Origin - under the EAC-EU interim EPA.

If you raise cattle in Botswana, there is now no limit on the amount you can sell on the EU market. With the SADC-EU interim EPA, beef quotas for Botswana are a thing of the past and EU assistance helped Botswana meet the necessary sanitary requirements.

Even Norwegians can enjoy Caribbean home-cooking - fresh produce and processed sauces and mixes now have duty / quota free access to the European Economic Area (EU + EFTA).

Pineapple exporters in Ghana can rest assured their business environment won't be upset by any unilateral decision. Greater predictability means they can safely invest more in processing and marketing their fruit.

No worries for farmers in the Caribbean - 75% of EU agricultural products will still face import tariffs, and the other 25% will not see duty-free competition start for another 10-25 years.

Europeans can get coconut oil from Fiji without flying there in person - a trip to the local supermarket may be enough. Pacific suppliers now have a duty/quota free access to the EU.

If you're a Ugandan producer using inputs from another ACP country, you no longer have to pay additional duties when you export to the EU - thanks to the new Rules of Origin under the interim EPA.

Fishermen in Papua New Guinea needn't fear tough new competition from EU fish imports - tariffs will still be applied under the interimEPA because fisheries are recognised as a sensitive industry and excluded from liberalisation.

One of Papua New Guinea's exports to the EU, canned tuna, on the other hand will continue to enter the EU duty and quota-free, with significantly more advantageous and simplified Rules of Origin to facilitate sourcing the raw tuna for processing.

Textile producers in Kenya and Tanzania can now source their raw materials from more efficient producers in Asia under the EPA. The final products - clothes - will still enter the EU duty and quota-free.

All ACPs that have signed an EPA can benefit from more flexible, simplified and advantageous rules of origin, which allow them to use cheaper, better quality or more innovative inputs from other countries in their exports and so move up the value-added ladder rather than exporting predominantly raw materials.

The EPAs

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