EPA State of Play - October 2009

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 initialed or signed interim EPAs.



Eastern and Southern Africa - ESA


On 29th August 4 ESA countries have signed an interim EPA with the EU. They are Mauritius, Seychelles, Zimbabwe and Madagascar. The other two members of the ESA formation, Zambia and Comoros, decided in the last minute not to sign. Both countries are classified as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) they benefit from the Everything But Arms (EBA) program of the European Commission. This means that their refusal to sign the interim EPA will have no practical consequences for them and allow them to continue to trade with the EU without being exposed to tariffs. Negotiations with all ESA countries will go on in order to conclude a full EPA, which includes also a chapter on services and on intellectual property rights.


East African Community - EAC


The negotiations with the EAC countries for an interim EPA are largely concluded. The EAC countries signaled that they are in no hurry to sign the interim EPA with the EU. The EAC countries want to see contentious issues, such as additional development aid, tackled before signing. As all EAC countries except Kenya are LDCs benefiting from the EBA program of the EU, Kenya is the only country of the region risking consequences from not signing. However, also Kenya's trade minister declared that a signing is extremely unlikely before the new European Commission takes office at the end of this year. Nonetheless the Commission remains optimistic that the signing could take place soon.


Economic Community Of West African States - ECOWAS


No agreement has yet been found between the EU and the ECOWAS countries. The EU insists on a liberalization of at least 80% of all trade over 15 years, while ECOWAS offers only 62% over 25 years. Other more technical aspects need still to be solved as well. The last two deadlines for concluding an agreement, June 2009 and October 2009 were both missed. Of the 16 ECOWAS countries 13 are LDCs benefiting from EBA. Of the three non-LDCs Côte d'Ivoire is the only country of the region having signed an interim EPA with the EU, while Ghana has initialed an interim EPA but not yet signed it. Oil rich Nigeria never had any interest in signing an EPA and did not took part in the negotiations. Nigeria has therefore already fallen back on the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP)[1].



Southern African Development Community - SADC


On the 4th June the SADC countries Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland signed an interim EPA with the EU. Mozambique did so a few days later. South Africa and Namibia as well as Angola did not sign. Of the three countries not signing the agreement Namibia is the only really vulnerable one. Angola as an LDC is benefiting from free access to European markets thanks to the EBA program, while South Africa benefits from preferential tariffs under a separate Free Trade Agreement with the EU, which will expire in 2012. So far Namibia has still been receiving free access to the European market, however the Commission signaled clearly that should there be complains from other nations regarding Namibia's status this free access would be taken away and Namibia would have to rely on the GSP scheme. The signing of the EPA by some countries but not by others caused tensions in the region. SADC countries seem however to have agreed to continue the negotiations with the EU for a full EPA as one single entity.



CEMAC (Central Africa)

The negotiations with CEMAC are effectively stalled as the European Commission itself has admitted. According to the Commission CEMAC is internally divided and it is not clear yet if the negotiations will go on with the region as a whole or with single countries. In October 2009 for the first time since February a meeting between the CEMAC countries and the Commission took place. The Commission however clarified that it was not a negotiation round but only a get-to-know-each-other-again meeting. The LDCs of the region (Chad, Sao Tome e Principe, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea) benefit from the EBA scheme. Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon have already fallen back to the GSP scheme and pay higher taxes on exports to the EU, but both benefit from having oil resources. Cameroon is the only CEMAC country having initialed and signed an interim EPA. The interim EPA with Cameroon is the next EPA to be discussed by the European Parliament although not date for the discussion has been set yet.


European Parliament


The new International Trade (INTA) and the Development (DEVE) Committees of the European Parliament have been constituted. The new chairman of INTA is the Portuguese socialist Vital Moreira (the complete list of the members of INTA can be found following this link http://www.europarl.europa.eu/members/expert/ committees/search.do?committee=2859&language=EN). The French Green Eva Joly is the new chairwoman of DEVE (the complete list of the members of DEVE can be found following this link http://www.europarl.europa.eu/members/expert/committees/search.do? committee=2857&language=EN). The hearing of the new European Trade Commissioner, whose name is not yet known is set to take place in front of INTA in the week from the 7th to the 10th December.


Thomas Lazzeri


[1] 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.


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