Environmental and Social Standards in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with West Africa: A Comparison to Other EPAs

02-06-2015

Although negotiations on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) were launched with seven regions in 2002 – with the expectation that they would be concluded within five years – only one full EPA was in force by March 2015: the agreement between the EU and the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM). A few interim EPAs are being implemented, including one for Eastern and Southern Africa. This briefing compares the principal provisions on social and environmental standards in the EPA with West Africa to the provisions in the CARIFORUM EPA and the interim EPA for Eastern and Southern Africa. In general, the CARIFORUM EPA contains the widest set of environmental and socials standards, as well as the most specific provisions, including on monitoring and dispute settlement procedures. While less comprehensive, the West Africa EPA also contains references to social and environmental objectives; the West Africa text confirms provisions in the Cotonou Partnership Agreement and includes a 'non-execution clause', which allows the EU to take measures in cases of human rights violations. The divergences between EPAs may well derive from different negotiating contexts. All EPAs will face a challenge when the Cotonou Agreement expires, as their non-execution clauses are linked to Cotonou.

Although negotiations on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) were launched with seven regions in 2002 – with the expectation that they would be concluded within five years – only one full EPA was in force by March 2015: the agreement between the EU and the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM). A few interim EPAs are being implemented, including one for Eastern and Southern Africa. This briefing compares the principal provisions on social and environmental standards in the EPA with West Africa to the provisions in the CARIFORUM EPA and the interim EPA for Eastern and Southern Africa. In general, the CARIFORUM EPA contains the widest set of environmental and socials standards, as well as the most specific provisions, including on monitoring and dispute settlement procedures. While less comprehensive, the West Africa EPA also contains references to social and environmental objectives; the West Africa text confirms provisions in the Cotonou Partnership Agreement and includes a 'non-execution clause', which allows the EU to take measures in cases of human rights violations. The divergences between EPAs may well derive from different negotiating contexts. All EPAs will face a challenge when the Cotonou Agreement expires, as their non-execution clauses are linked to Cotonou.