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The new EPAs: Comparative analysis of their content and the challenges for 2008

Policy Management Report 14

March 2008

Stevens, C., Bilal, S., Rampa, F. (et al.). 2008. The new EPAs: Comparative analysis of their content and the challenges for 2008 (final report). (Policy Management Report 14). London, Maastricht: ODI, ECDPM.

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This report provides a comprehensive analysis of the trade regimes for Africa that on 1 January 2008 replaced the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA), the negotiations that remain to be completed and the challenges facing Africa in implementation, some of which require support from Europe. Part A provides an analysis of the liberalisation that African states have agreed to undertake in relation to imports from the European Union (EU) and vice versa and key features of the main texts of the interim Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). Part B reviews the process that culminated in the initialling of interim EPAs by some
ACP states but not by others to learn the lessons, reviews the future options for both current signatories and non-signatories and assesses the aid for trade (AfT) modalities.

Eighteen African states (including most non-least developed and some least developed countries (LDCs)) have initialled interim EPAs, as have two Pacific non-LDCs (Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG)); the Caribbean countries (CARIFORUM) have gone further and have agreed full EPAs. The remaining African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries apart from South Africa now export to the European market under the EU Generalised System of Preferences (GSP): its favourable Everything But Arms (EBA) sub-regime in the case of LDCs, and the less favourable standard GSP for Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Gabon and seven Pacific countries. South Africa continues to export under its own free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU, the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA).

As World Trade Organization (WTO)-compatible free trade deals, the interim EPAs have removed the risk that the end of the Cotonou waiver would result in some ACP losing their preferential EU market access. Free from the pressure to meet WTO commitments, the parties can now continue negotiations towards more comprehensive EPAs, based on their initial development objectives. The European Commission has the mandate to conclude full EPAs and it intends to do so; none of their ACP partners has so far renounced this objective. But, whilst reaching development-oriented agreements without arbitrary time pressure is an
attractive prospect, it is no easy task.

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