An overview of the EU-ACP countries' economic partnership agreements: Building a new trade relationship

03-07-2018

In line with the objective enshrined in the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (signed in 2000), the EU has sought to update its preferential trade relationship with the ACP countries by establishing free-trade areas with regional groupings. As well as allowing ACP countries to continue exporting their products to the EU without any restriction, this would also ensure compliance with WTO rules. The negotiation process has been longer and more complicated than initially expected. So far, it has ushered in nine agreements covering more than half (51) of the ACP countries. Some of these agreements are interim, others are final; seven are already under provisional application. Economic partnership agreements are development-oriented asymmetric agreements providing important advantages and safeguards to ACP countries, in order to foster their sustainable economic development, regional integration and integration on world markets. They are the first attempt to liberalise trade between economies with such a disparate level of development, which also possibly explains the difficulties encountered during the negotiations. Despite the EU's initial ambitions to conclude modern comprehensive agreements that also cover trade in services and trade-related issues, this has been fully possible only in the EPA with the Cariforum region; in the other EPAs, these elements have been left for future negotiations.

In line with the objective enshrined in the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (signed in 2000), the EU has sought to update its preferential trade relationship with the ACP countries by establishing free-trade areas with regional groupings. As well as allowing ACP countries to continue exporting their products to the EU without any restriction, this would also ensure compliance with WTO rules. The negotiation process has been longer and more complicated than initially expected. So far, it has ushered in nine agreements covering more than half (51) of the ACP countries. Some of these agreements are interim, others are final; seven are already under provisional application. Economic partnership agreements are development-oriented asymmetric agreements providing important advantages and safeguards to ACP countries, in order to foster their sustainable economic development, regional integration and integration on world markets. They are the first attempt to liberalise trade between economies with such a disparate level of development, which also possibly explains the difficulties encountered during the negotiations. Despite the EU's initial ambitions to conclude modern comprehensive agreements that also cover trade in services and trade-related issues, this has been fully possible only in the EPA with the Cariforum region; in the other EPAs, these elements have been left for future negotiations.