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Economic Partnership Agreements

Economic partnership agreements (EPAs) help ACP countries integrate into the global economy and are important tools for EU-ACP cooperation. More than just traditional free-trade agreements, EPAs:

  • improve the business environment
  • build up regional markets
  • promote good economic governance through reinforced regional cooperation in trade related issues.

Key features

  • Development - EPAs foster development and economic growth through trade and facilitate economic reforms through regional integration.
  • Regional integration – EPAs support regional integration in the ACP, as a key step towards further integration into the world economy and an essential tool for stimulating investment and consolidating growth-friendly government policies.
  • Reciprocity – This new element in EU trade relations establishes a level playing field between ACP and non-ACP developing countries.
  • Asymmetry - New region-to-region arrangements will open up the EU market to ACP goods completely and immediately whereas ACP markets will only be opened up very gradually. This is because they need to protect sensitive sectors through long transition periods or avoid liberalisation altogether in some areas.
  • Differentiation – Each regional EPA will reflect the specific needs and interests of the region and the member countries, and their priorities for regional integration and development.
  • Partnership – EPAs will strengthen long-lasting relationships, help reduce poverty, promote sustainable development and gradually integrate ACP countries into the world economy. Partnership will encourage domestic and foreign investment, boost growth and create better jobs in ACP countries – reinventing the EU-ACP economic relationship.

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Status of negotiations

In 2008 the EU signed a comprehensive EPA with 13 CARIFORUM countries . Haiti is expected to sign. The Cariforum-EU EPA information paper

Some ACP partners have signed interim economic partnership agreements with the EU as a first step towards comprehensive regional EPAs. The interim agreements secure and improve ACP access to the EU market and provide for more favourable rules of origin. As a result they avoid negative trade effects for the ACP countries following the expiration of the Cotonou trade regime.

In January 2009, Côte d'Ivoire and Cameroon have signed interim EPAs.

Negotiations are ongoing with the African and Pacific regions to move from interim agreements to comprehensive regional agreements. The negotiations – expected to be completed in 2009 – cover regional trade integration, trade in services, investment and trade-related rules.

Related fact sheets on the interim Economic Partnership Agreements:

Last update: 17/02/2012 | Top