EPA News - May 2012


At the end of April the trade committee of the European Parliament discussed the draft report on the Commission proposal to set a January 2014 deadline for the EPA negotiations. The rapporteur of the European Parliament, David Martin from the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) suggested moving the deadline from 2014 to 2016. African governments, African and European civil society organisations had urged the Parliament to reject the deadline altogether. Martin argued that there was a need to put an end to the current situation at a certain stage, as the current situation is not compatible with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. At the same time he stated that the 2014 deadline was rather soon and was seen by ACP partners as heavy pressure. He also rejected the idea of using the deadline as a means to pressure ACP into signing EPAs, arguing that ACP countries should sign EPAs because they feel it is in their best interest, not because they are pressured.

The Liberal group in the Parliament declared itself willing to go along with David Martin's proposal of postponing the deadline, affirming that waiting for a couple of years more would not really be a problem for the EU.


The European Peoples Party, - the largest group in the European Parliament - and the British Tories rejected the idea of postponing the deadline arguing that already too much time had gone by since 2007 when the negotiations were originally meant to be concluded.

The European Commission also declared that it was opposed to postponing the deadline, claiming that it created momentum not pressure.

Only the Greens and the Communists supported the idea of rejecting the deadline altogether, meaning that there is no chance that this option will find a majority in the European Parliament. It only remains to be seen whether or not the Parliament will accept the postponement of the deadline to 2016 - which would still be better than nothing.

The trade committee is scheduled to vote on the report on the 20th June and the plenary of the European Parliament is set to vote on it after the summer break.


Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA)

On the 14th May, the interim EPA between the EU and four ESA countries - Mauritius, Madagascar, Seychelles and Zimbabwe - became the first EPA to be agreed with an African region. Several countries of the region such as Malawi, Zambia or the Comoros backed out of the interim EPA in the past and are not going ahead with it. According to information provided by the European Commission, the four countries applying the interim EPA are also the only countries of the region actively participating in the negotiations for a full EPA.


Western Africa (ECOWAS)

The negotiations between the EU and West Africa reached a deadlock on a series of issues including the level of market opening[1] ECOWAS countries have to offer and development assistance. Ghana's trade minister in the meantime declared that for her the positives of EPAs outweigh the negatives and that Ghana might go ahead alone if regional discussions fail.


Eastern African Community (EAC)

Parliamentarians from the region meeting in Arusha at the end of April urged the EU not to impose unrealistic deadlines in a statement published after the meeting.


Central Africa (CEMAC)

Although contacts between the EU and the region are ongoing, no joint negotiation round has taken place since September 2011, showing that the region is still far away from signing an EPA.



Thomas Lazzeri

[1] Market opening means the amount of goods a country has to liberalise.

Go back