EPAs News Update - May 2009

The European Commission intends to conclude negotiations for the final EPAs by the end of 2009. In March 2009 the European Parliament approved the CARIFORUM EPA (regarding the Caribbean countries), which is the only final EPA to be signed to date. Up to now 20 African countries have signed interim EPAs.


The current state of the negotiations varies from region to region. The EPA negotiations with West Africa are close to a conclusion. A round took place end of April and further negotiations are foreseen in May. The EU is intentioned to conclude the negotiations by June. However, at the end of April Ghana cautioned that this might not be feasible. Thus far in the West African region only Ghana and Ivory Coast have signed stepping stone (interim) EPAs.

The EPA negotiations with Central Africa are ongoing. The negotiations in February focused n of the 10th European Development Fund's (EDF) Regional Indicative Program. The latest round of negotiations was held on the 20th April. Thus far Cameroon is the only Central African country having signed an interim EPA.

In the negotiation of an interim EPA with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) progresses were made on several issues and negotiations could soon be concluded. South Africa expressed clear opposition to some points, especially to the Most Favoured Nation clause, and it is possible that the interim EPA will be signed without South Africa. Negotiations for full a EPA will however take longer, and are unlikely to be concluded by the end of this year.

Negotiations with Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) remain relatively stalled as ESA countries continue to demand Ministers special and differentiated treatment to allow Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to offer less than the European Commission's proposed 80% trade liberalisation and longer than 15 years transition to protect tariff revenues.

The East African Community (EAC) seems to be intended to push for an extension of the deadline of signing an EPA with the EU to promote regional integration beforehand, Meanwhile, EAC continued in to hold sessions on EPA issues.


EPAs contain a series of clauses, which are dangerous for African countries and represent serious obstacles for the development perspectives of African countries. The Most Favoured Nation clause forces them to grant to the EU the same right to access to their markets that they grant to other African states. Granting the Most Favoured Nation status to the EU would be a concrete impediment to South-South trade integration. On services and intellectual property rights the EU tries to include in EPAs provisions, which go beyond what is foreseen at the WTO level. An opening of the services market would allow the European multinational companies to take control of the African service market, especially those sectors, like telecommunication services, which are particularly interesting from a economic point of view. Tighter rules on intellectual property endanger the possibility of Africans to accede to medicines and seeds for example as these would be protected by patents and could not be replicated without obtaining costly licenses. The timeframe, which is given to African countries to liberalise their markets is too short, the list of goods, which have to be liberalised is worrisome and not enough adequate safeguard measures for the protection of the local economy are foreseen. As well, not enough funds are foreseen to help African countries to cope with the tariff revenue loss. The EPA negotiations have to take into account the global financial crisis and the impact it has already had and is likely to have in the near future on the economies of developing countries.

It is important to identify indicators, which allow to measure and assess the impact of EPAs on the African countries and their development perspectives. expand. It is here that civil society can also play an important role. It is only with sufficient monitoring that it becomes possible to identify and to attempt to correct the negative impacts of EPAs. Possible indicators to measure the impact of EPAs could be among others the number of people migrating from the countryside to the cities, the variation in the number of people employed in traditional agriculture, the variation in the capacity of the governments to provide essential social services in health and education, the variations in the field of food sovereignty.


Thomas Lazzeri


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