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EU-ACP EPAs

In 2000, the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, otherwise known as the ACP group, adopted the Cotonou Agreement, which is a framework treaty on trade, aid and political cooperation. It replaced the previous Lomé Convention, providing for a general set of privileged relations between the EU and the ACP countries in matters of market access, technical assistance and other issues. The objective is to facilitate the economic and political integration of the ACP countries into a liberalised world market over the next 20 years.

Under the Cotonou Agreement, the parties agreed to negotiate a separate set of free trade agreements between the EU and the participating ACP countries, tailored to six clusters of countries (West Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa, Central Africa, SADC, the Caribbean and the Pacific). For the EU the EPAs are meant to be comprehensive free trade agreements, laced with rhetoric about "development" and "regional integration". For the EU, comprehensive means not just about the liberalisation of trade in goods, but also about liberalisation of services, investments and government procurement, and the strengthening of intellectual property rights, competition rules, etc.

The negotiations on these EPAs started in September 2002 and were supposed to be completed by 31 December 2007. Hence, a WTO waiver to maintain the EU’s unilateral preferential trade relations with ACP countries until that date was sought and granted. (The EU pushed "WTO compatibility" of the EPAs as a frame for the talks and ACP countries accepted it.) As the talks advanced, ACP governments became caught between a rock and a hard place. They wanted the bits of market access that the EPAs offered, but would have to pay an extremely high price in terms of loss of customs revenue, destabilisation of their economies from the expected flood of EU imports, unclear financial aid commitments from Brussels, reduced political autonomy, etc. Civil society, labour unions and business groups in the ACP countries studied the implications and came out with vigorous campaigns to stop the signing of the EPAs.

The 31 December 2007 deadline for the EPAs to be signed came and went in a flurry of drama. Only the Caribbean region concluded negotiations on a comprehensive EPA before the deadline. A number of other states — including Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire — initialled bilateral interim EPAs on goods only, to secure the continuation of their exports. Others, like Senegal, swore they would not sign until “development concerns” were seriously taken on board. Negotiations then continued to revise the interim EPAs which appeared to contain many problematic provisions; and to arrive at regional agreements. In order to put pressure on the negotiations, the EU imposed a new deadline: (non-LDC, least developed country) ACP countries which had initialled or signed (interim) EPAs but did not ratify or start to implement these agreements before 1.1.2014 would lose their preferential market access to the EU. As a result of this threat, regional EPAs were initialled in the summer of 2014 in West, East and Southern Africa. However, the European Commission warned the three regions that it would withdraw preferential market access if these regional EPAs would not be ratified within two years. In the summer of 2016 the European Commission tabled the legal instruments to give effect to this threat on 1 October 2016. All targeted (non-LDC) countries (Ghana, Ivory Coast, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Kenya) surrendered and “ratified”.

West African countries approved a regional EPA on 10 July 2014 but the agreement is yet to be signed by the Gambia, Mauretania and Nigeria (where it faces sustained opposition). Under pressure of the European Commission’s 2016 ultimatum, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana therefore decided in August 2016 to ratify their old and outdated 2007 agreement. The Cote d’Ivoire interim EPA has been applied since 8 September 2016, while the Ghana interim EPA still has to be approved by the European Parliament.

The East African Community (or EAC) EPA was supposed to be signed in July 2016 but Tanzania announced that is was not ready to sign, as it wanted to further examine the effects of the EPA especially in the light of a possible Brexit. Under pressure from the EU, Kenya, the only non-LDC in the region, decided to sign and ratify the EPA on its own. Rwanda signed as well.

In Southern African, six member countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), namely Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland, signed the regional EPA that they had initialled in 2014. The European Parliament approved it on 14 September 2016. Provisional implementation started on 10 October 2016.

In all other ACP regions (except the Caribbean) regional EPA negotiations failed completely: as a result number of countries ratified or started to provisionally apply separate 2007 interim EPAs (most of them under pressure of the EU’s 2015 ultimatum): Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Fiji.

Nevertheless, only 12 African countries are implementing an EPA, and 12 others have no EPA at all. In the Pacific only 2 out of the 14 countries have an EPA.

Below is an overview of the EPA’s state of play as of 14 October 2016 (courtesy of Marc Maes):

EU-ACP sub-group status of agreement
Caribbean • full EPA initialed in Dec 2007 and signed in October 2008 (and December 2009 by Haiti) and approved by the European Parliament (March 2009). Ratification still pending in most Caribbean and EU states. Caribbean countries experience difficulties with the implementation of the EPA. Haïti does not apply the EPA.
Central Africa • interim EPA initialled (Dec 2007) and signed by Cameroon only (January 2009), approved by the European Parliament (June 2013), ratified by Cameroon (August 2016)
West Africa • interim EPA initialled by Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana only (Dec 2007)
• this interim EPA signed by Côte d’Ivoire (Nov 2008) and approved by the European Parliament (March 2009)
• Regional EPA (that would replace two interim EPAs) initialed in July 2016. 13 countries have signed this EPA; Nigeria, the Gambia and Mauritania have not
• interim EPA ratified by Côte d’Ivoire in August 2016 and applied since 8 September 2016
• interim EPA signed and ratified by Ghana (Aug 2016)
East and Southern Africa (ESA) This region originally comprised 16 countries, but fell apart at the end of 2007. Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Soudan dropped out of the process; the EAC initialled a seperate regional interim EPA (see below); so that only the following countries remained: Zimbabwe, Seychelles, Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar and Zambia. These initialed the same EPA text (Nov-Dec 2007) but only Zimbabwe, Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar signed (August 2009). Zimbabwe, Seychelles and Madagascar have in the meantime ratified the agreement while Mauritius has notified provisional implementation. The European Parliament has approved this interim EPA in January 2013. Mauritius signed in 2015 the Joint Undertaking on Administrative Cooperation for the Implementation of the Cumulation Provisions contained in the EPA
East Africa • regional interim EPA initialled by East African Community members Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda (Nov 2007)
• revised and more complete regional EPA initialed in October 2014
• Kenya and Rwanda signed this EPA in September 2016, Kenya also ratified it
Southern Africa • regional interim EPA initialled by Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, Mozambique (Nov-Dec 2007) and signed by Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique only (June 2009)
• revised and more complete regional EPA initialled on 15 July 2014; signed by Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa on 10 June 2016 and ratified by all except Mozambique; ratified by the European Parliament on 14 September 2016; provisionally applied since 10 October 2016
• Angola has dropped out of the process but has an option to join the agreement in the future
Pacific • interim EPA initialed by Papua New Guinea and Fiji only (Nov 2007). Signed (July 2009) and ratified (February 2011) by Papua New Guinea; signed by Fiji (Dec 2009) and provisionally applied since July 2014
• 12 countries have not initialled anything yet

last update: October 2016


Tensions grow over the future of the ACP group
The African Union wants to have a continent-to-continent dialogue with Europe, a change that could make the framework of the Cotonou Agreement implode and leave the Pacific and Caribbean states out in the cold.
Europeans unhappy about SA’s duties on chicken
European chicken producers are miffed by South Africa’s decision to impose import duties on their exports, which goes against the spirit of the EPA [economic partnership agreement].
Chicken woman has a lesson on fowl play for SA
The EU threatens now and again to force Cameroon to open its markets, given its status as a signatory to the Economic Partnership Agreement.
The Gambia signs the region-to-region Economic Partnership Agreement between West Africa and the EU
The Gambia became the 14th West African country to have signed the region-to-region Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU.
EU-Africa free trade will create more imbalances, say critics
Germany’s development minister has sparked a debate by calling for EU tariffs to be waived on African goods. Critics question whether import duties are really the issue, or are there other barriers to trade?
EU-Eastern and Southern Africa EPA faces collapse
Although ESA says it is committed to the full EPA process with EU, the bloc accuses the EU of dragging its feet and rather preferring to enter into EPAs with individual African states outside the collective economic integration framework.
Samoa, P.N.G. get the nod
Samoa and Papua New Guinea will represent the Pacific at the Ministerial level central negotiating for the post-Cotonou agreement.
South African Customs Union, EU start talks on new economic partnership agreement with post-Brexit Britain
The Southern African Customs Union, Mozambique and the European Union have started talks to conclude a new economic partnership agreement with post-Brexit Britain.
Bruxelles prête pour ouvrir les négociations UE-ACP
La Commission européenne a reçu l’autorisation et les directives du Conseil de l’UE afin de lancer des négociations sur un nouvel accord de partenariat avec les pays d’Afrique, des Caraïbes et du Pacifique
ACP negotiating mandate for the Post-Cotonou Partnership Agreement with the European Union unanimously adopted
The Africa, Caribbean and Pacific negotiating mandate for the Post-Cotonou Partnership Agreement with the European Union was unanimously adopted at the 107th Session of the ACP Council of Ministers

    Links


  • Africa-Europe: What alternatives?
    A meeting of networks, researchers, NGOs and civil society groups in Lisbon, 7-9 December 2007
  • APE-CEDEAO
    Site web de la CEDEAO sur l’APE Afrique de l’Ouest-Union Européenne
  • EPA Monitoring
    The website seeks to provide regular updates on developments in ACP-EU agro-food sector trade and investment relations which could give rise to policy challenges in the context of the development of future relations between African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the European Union (EU).
  • EurActiv on EPAs
    EurActiv articles on the Economic Partnership Agreeements
  • European Commission webpage on EPA negotiations
  • PAPDA
    Plateforme Haïtienne de Plaidoyer pour un Développement Alternatif, en lutte contre les APE
  • The EPA Exposed
    Under the EPAs we are about to become the consumers to a master-supplier in a master servant relationship.
  • tralac
    tralac is a capacity-building organisation developing trade-related capacity in east and southern Africa.