African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Countries' Position on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAS)

08-04-2014

After twelve years, Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) negotiations between African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the EU continue to drag on, as many contentious issues remain pending. The decision by the EU to remove their unilateral trade preferences by 1 October 2014 for countries that have not signed or ratified the EPAs is now creating tremendous pressure and tension in various countries and subregions. In particular, African countries are caught in the dilemma of losing their preferential market access for the few products they export to the EU if they do not sign the EPAs, versus their longer-term development prospects if they do sign the EPAs. The threats presented by EPAs as articulated by many stakeholders include: significant tariff revenue losses, loss in policy space and threats to local industries, unemployment, serious disruption of existing or planned customs unions and the displacement of existing regional trade and regional production capacities. Several alternatives to the EPAs have been proposed which could be WTO-compatible and which the EU already provides to some other countries. Options could include: improving the EU's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) schemes by, for instance, giving all countries in ‘LDC customs unions’ Everything But Arms (EBA) treatment, or improving the EU's GSP+ scheme. Alternatively, the EU could demand a waiver from WTO members for specific developing country regions, as the US has successfully done.

After twelve years, Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) negotiations between African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the EU continue to drag on, as many contentious issues remain pending. The decision by the EU to remove their unilateral trade preferences by 1 October 2014 for countries that have not signed or ratified the EPAs is now creating tremendous pressure and tension in various countries and subregions. In particular, African countries are caught in the dilemma of losing their preferential market access for the few products they export to the EU if they do not sign the EPAs, versus their longer-term development prospects if they do sign the EPAs. The threats presented by EPAs as articulated by many stakeholders include: significant tariff revenue losses, loss in policy space and threats to local industries, unemployment, serious disruption of existing or planned customs unions and the displacement of existing regional trade and regional production capacities. Several alternatives to the EPAs have been proposed which could be WTO-compatible and which the EU already provides to some other countries. Options could include: improving the EU's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) schemes by, for instance, giving all countries in ‘LDC customs unions’ Everything But Arms (EBA) treatment, or improving the EU's GSP+ scheme. Alternatively, the EU could demand a waiver from WTO members for specific developing country regions, as the US has successfully done.