EPA News Update - March 2012

The 94th session of the ACP Council of Ministers, combined with the ACP Trade Ministerial meeting, was held in Brussels from 7-9 December 2011. ACP Ministers strongly opposed the EU's January 2014 deadline, declaring that “the delay in concluding the negotiations is due to the non-resolution of contentious issues owing to entrenched positions of the EC side as well as additional issues being added to the negotiating agenda in which the EC cannot be absolved from blame”. They also called for the "immediate withdrawal of the proposed measures in view of their detrimental overall effect."


Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA)


Zimbabwe has now completed the ratification of the interim EPA it signed in August 2009[1]. With Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar already having completed the ratification process, this becomes the first interim EPA that will be implemented in Africa.

In the meantime, negotiations for the completion of a full EPA continue. The European Commission has confirmed that the four countries that have signed the interim EPA are the only ones effectively participating in the negotiations for a full EPA. Services are also being discussed in the negotiations of the full EPA[2]. The Horn of Africa countries (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti) which have already backed out of the interim EPA negotiations are not participating. In addition, Malawi, (which did not initial the interim EPA) and Zambia and Comoros (which did, but then refused to sign it) are not involved in the negotiations.


Central Africa (CEMAC)


There have been a few negotiation rounds recently, but considerable gaps remain between the EU and the region. According to the European Commission, all countries of the region are involved except Equatorial Guinea which has left the negotiations. This means that even countries like Congo Brazzaville and Gabon, which had opted out of the interim EPA process and decided to fall back on the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP)[3] are negotiating, although the European Commission states that Congo Brazzaville is showing less interest than Gabon. Gabon's renewed interest in EPA hardly comes as a surprise given that the European Commission's GSP reform proposal would mean that Gabon is removed from the list of beneficiary countries and would revert to normal tariffs.


Eastern African Community (EAC)


According to the European Commission, few issues are outstanding and the negotiations should be completed by the summer. Whether the objective will be met remains to be seen as it would not be the first time that the EU's hopes for completion of the negotiations with the regions were smashed at the last moment.


West Africa (ECOWAS)


The negotiations have gone as far as possible from a technical point of view according to the European Commission and now need political input to continue. At the same time, the Commission also affirmed that ECOWAS' political priorities seem to be elsewhere without specifying in detail what it meant.


Southern Africa (SADC)


The European Commission is not satisfied with the latest market access offer (i.e. the amounts of goods they are willing to liberalise) that it has received from SADC. The EU recognises that more negotiations will be needed before an agreement with the region can be concluded.



Thomas Lazzeri

[1] See EPA News Update September 2009 at http://www.aefjn.org/index.php/351/articles/epa-news-update---september-2009.html

[2] To learn more about the risks of an EPA in services please read EPAs in Services no good for Africa, says World Bank at http://www.aefjn.org/index.php/352/articles/epas-in-services-no-good-for-africa-says-world-bank.html

[3] For more on GSP and the GSP reform proposal please refer to EU wants to force ACP countries to sign EPAs at http://www.aefjn.org/index.php/352/articles/european-commission-wants-to-force-acp-countries-to-sign-epas.html


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