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Countries and regions

Africa, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP)

The ACP EPA countries group themselves into seven regions: five in Africa, one in the Caribbean and one in the Pacific.

This helps the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) take full account of the particularities of individual countries.

EPAs also give special attention to:

  • individual ACP country's geography and structure – emphasising vulnerable landlocked and island topographies.
  • the need for ACP countries to take ownership of their development and design their own strategies for achieving growth and prosperity.
  • the involvement of non-government bodies in EPA negotiations, including civil society and members of the business community.
  • development level – focusing on the least developed countries.
ACP-EU Cotonou Agreement – the basis for EPAs

For more on economic partnerships with the ACP region, see Economic partnerships

All EPAs have their origins in the trade chapter of the Cotonou Agreement – a broad agreement between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries. EPAs are aimed at promoting sustainable development and growth, poverty reduction, better governance and the gradual integration of ACP countries into the world economy.

The Cotonou Agreement maps out ACP-EU relations up to 2020 (with a revision scheduled every five years). It provides for a framework in three main areas:

  • political dialogue
  • development support
  • economic and trade cooperation

More information on the Cotonou Agreement

Helping ACP countries trade

For more on helping countries to develop trade capacity, see Aid for trade

Although ACP exports have had preferential access to EU markets for the last 30 years, the volume of their exports has actually gone down.

EPAs seek to counter this trend by providing a broad range of measures to help the ACP trade more with all countries.

More trade with the EU

ACP countries need to ensure their exports comply with changing EU standards (e.g. on food safety and animal welfare).

For that reason, EPAs include technical support and training, and measures to promote knowledge transfer and strengthen public services. Examples include:

  1. the EU pesticides programme for the horticulture sector and an EU fish health project
  2. training in food safety and quality control (PIP programme) for over 200,000 family-run fresh fruit and vegetable businesses.
More trade with regional neighbours

The volume of trade between ACP countries themselves is very low. For instance, Ghana sends less than 3% of its exports to neighbouring Benin (compared with 49% to the EU).

Many ACP countries simply lack the basic infrastructure to trade with each other.

For instance lack of competition in the transport industry leads to high prices – it costs as much to move a container from Mombasa to Kampala as it does from Mombasa to Shanghai.

Administrative procedures can also be an obstacle. In Rwanda, the import procedure takes 124 days on average against an OECD average of 12 days.

In such cases, EPAs help by stimulating competition and reducing border delays.

In Lesotho, the EU has helped fund a one-stop export application facility that takes 15 minutes to be processed rather than seven days, and exporters fill in a two-page form instead of 23 pages.

More trade in services and investment

The ACPs' service and investment sectors have grown rapidly in recent decades.

In the world's least developed countries (41 of which are ACP countries), more people now work in service industries – e.g. tourism, health and IT – than in farming.

Regional experts forecast that the Caribbean EPA will generate most of the future growth in the region's service sector and creative industries such as music and filmmaking.