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Economic partnerships

Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are trade and development agreements negotiated between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific regions engaged in a regional economic integration process.

Economic Partnership Agreements in a nutshell

  • The Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regions are aimed at promoting trade between the two groupings – and through trade development, sustainable growth and poverty reduction.
  • The EPAs set out to help ACP countries integrate into the world economy and share in the opportunities offered by globalisation.
  • For well over 30 years, exports from the ACP countries were given generous access to the European market.
  • Yet preferential access failed to boost local economies and stimulate growth in ACP countries. And the proportion of EU imports from ACP countries dropped from 7% to 3% of EU imports.

EU trade policy and Economic Partnership Agreements

Economic Partnership Agreements:

  • date back to the signing of the Cotonou Agreement in 2000.
  • are "tailor-made" to suit specific regional circumstances.
  • go beyond conventional free-trade agreements, focusing on ACP development, taking account of their socio-economic circumstances and include co-operation and assistance to help ACP countries implement the Agreements.
  • opened up EU markets fully and immediately (unilaterally by the EU since 1st January 2008), but allowed ACP countries 15 (and up to 25) years to open up to EU imports while providing protection for the sensitive 20% of imports.
  • provide scope for wide-ranging trade co-operation on areas such as services and standards.
  • are also designed to be drivers of change that will kick-start reform and help strengthen rule of law in the economic field, thereby attracting foreign direct investment, so helping to create a "virtuous circle" of growth.

Read the EPA brochure (2011) and see the benefits of EPAs.

Where are we in negotiations?

Overview of EPAs - state of play