EPA State of Play - October 2010

In 2002 the EU started negotiations for Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Countries. To date only one final EPA, the CARIFORUM EPA (regarding the Caribbean countries) has been ratified. Up to now, 20 African countries have initialled or signed interim EPAs. The last African countries to sign an interim EPA were four Eastern and Southern Africa countries in August 2009

Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht, acknowledges that the EPA negotiations have encountered serious difficulties but is determined to re-launch EPA negotiations and to bring them to a conclusion soon. For this purpose a series of ministerial meetings have taken place recently or a scheduled to take place in the next weeks.


Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA)


Mauritius, Seychelles, Zimbabwe and Madagascar signed the interim EPA with the EU last September. Zambia and Comoros, decided not to sign. The European Commission admits that it is uncertain about the way forward in this region and that it does not expect any progress any time soon.


East Africa (EAC)


The European Commission expected the EAC countries to sign an EPA in Dar el Salaam in June. However, the countries of the region refused to do so, citing outstanding issues still to be addressed. On that occasion it was agreed to reach an agreement by November. However, up to now no road-map on how to do this and how to solve the contentious issues has been developed and it is therefore unlikely that the deadline will be met. Commissioner De Gucht, probably still upset at returning from Dar el Salaam empty-handed, expressed himself in favour of revoking the duty free market access the EAC countries enjoy[1], unless they sign by the end of this year.


West Africa (ECOWAS)


Of the 16 ECOWAS countries 13 are Least Developed Countries (LDCs) benefiting from the “Everything but Arms” (EBA) concession. Of the three non-LDCs the Ivory Coast is the only country of the region to have signed an interim EPA with the EU, while Ghana has initialled an interim EPA but not yet signed it. Oil rich Nigeria did not initial the interim EPA and has therefore already fallen back on the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP)[2]. The long standing disagreements between the EU and ECOWAS largely remain the same.


The EU insists on the inclusion of the the Most Favoured Nation clause[3], which West Africans countries absolutely do not want to see included in the agreement. They also insists on a market opening of 80% in 15 years, whereas West Africa offers to open about 70 percent of its tariff lines and volume of trade over a 25-year period.


On the development aid programme, PAPED, which should go together with the EPA, the EU refuses to make any additional commitment. So far, the Commission has committed 6 out the total 9.5 billion Euro needed for the programme. Where the remaining money should come from remains unclear, despite all the assurances of the Commission.


Southern Africa (SADC)


In June 2009 Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland signed an interim EPA with the EU. South Africa, Namibia as well as Angola did not sign. At the end of July the EU and the SADC countries agreed to conclude EPA negotiations by the end of this year. According to the intentions expressed it should be a full (and therefore final) EPA, not an interim one. If this is the case, it is unlikely that both sides will find the time to agree on issues like services, investments, government procurement or intellectual property rights and to include them into the EPA. The fundamental issues, which thus far have been an obstacle to the conclusion of an interim agreement with the whole region, continue to remain the same as no agreement has yet been found on them and neither side seems to be particularly willing to move. It remains therefore doubtful whether the deadline can be met.


Central Africa (CEMAC)


Cameroon is the only CEMAC country to have initialled and signed an interim EPA. However, Cameroon has decided to postpone the implementation of the EPA, which was set to begin in January 2010. The European Commission admits that it does not know at the moment how to move forward with the negotiations in this region.





Thomas Lazzeri

[1] The duty free quota free access to the European market was granted to the EAC countries since they initialled the interim EPA in 2007, but did not sign it in that occasion.

[2] The EU's Generalised System of Preferences is a trade arrangement through which the EU provides preferential access to the EU market to developing countries and territories, in the form of reduced tariffs for their goods when entering the EU market. There is no expectation or requirement that this access be reciprocated. It has however to be noted that this represents an increase of tariffs for ACP countries, which hitherto benefited from duty free access to the EU market thanks to the Lomé Convention.


[3] The MFN clause basically means that if the African countries sign a trade agreement with another major economic power and if in this agreement they make more concessions than they made to the EU, they will have to extend these concessions to the EU as well.

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