Cotonou Partnership Agreement
 ACP-EU Relations in a Changing World


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Redefining ACP-EU trade relations: Economic Partnership Agreements

A background paper by San Bilal for the ECDPM seminar on the ACP-EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement analyses the main issues at stake in the current processes to negotiate Economic Partnership Agreements. Some aspects discussed by Bilal are:

Differing expectations

"Since the start of the negotiations, EPAs have created a great amount of tension among the two negotiating parties."

"The prospect of EPAs has raised serious concerns and led to further divergences between the EU and the ACP on a wide range of issues, most importantly the approach to development."

"For the EU, EPAs will foster development mainly through trade liberalisation and the creation of the right policy framework to attract investment."

"From an ACP perspective, however, EPAs only make sense if they foster development."

"Despite wide divergences on the approach, both the EC and the ACP agree that EPAs are above all about development."

The 2006 EPA Review

"The 2006 Review of EPAs may provide the right momentum to put in place a continuous monitoring mechanism of EPAs, during their negotiations and most importantly during their implementation phase."

"Designing such a monitoring is no easy task since there are so many areas to be monitored and the EU and the ACP have diverging opinions on the specific goals to be met by the EPAs."

"The 'development benchmarks' approach may offer a possible way to address these difficulties. Development benchmarks would ensure clarity on the assumptions and values underlying the monitoring exercise and on the specific methodology adopted."

"It is arguably unfortunate that the Review in some regions is taking place only among the negotiators themselves. It is important for the Review not to be confined to a joint assessment by ACP and EU EPA negotiators, but that more stakeholders from the private sector, civil society and other ACP and EU institutions are involved."

Impact of EPAs on the ACP-EU partnership

"When (or if) concluded, EPAs will have a profound impact on the ACP countries and regions."

"However, to be meaningful, EPAs cannot be an end in themselves."

"In the longer term, the pertinence of the ACP-EU partnership and of the ACP Group itself will also have to be reassessed."

"EPAs have been initially presented by the EU as agreements focusing on trade-related issues only ... However, recent events suggest a slight shift of approach, with the explicit recognition that discussions on development support are intrinsically linked to the EPA negotiations."

"Looking at the approach of the EU with other (non-ACP) partners, its recent free trade agreements have generally been embodied in broader agreement, covering not only trade, but also development cooperation and political dialogue."

"In this context, one could expect pressures over time to regionalise the ACP-EU partnership along EPA configurations. The recent Africa Strategy and Caribbean Strategy of the EU might be perceived as first parallel first initial steps in that direction."

"The question at stake is not so much what will happen to the ACP-EU partnership after 2020, when the CPA will expire, but rather what will be the value added and role of the ACP Group and the relevance of an overarching ACP-EU framework of partnership? Should EPAs be then extended to include political and development cooperation dimension besides trade, or should the ACP remain the prevailing umbrella, and to which end?"

Read the background paper by San Bilal

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More information about ACP-EU trade is at www.acp-eu-trade.org; see also the Euforic trade dossier.

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