EPA Negotiations: The Honeymoon is Over ...
The European Commission (EC) finally announced on 30 September 20112 that countries that have concluded an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) but not taken the necessary steps to ratify it would no longer benefit from the EPA market access to Europe as from 1 January 2014.
The EC Market Access Regulation (MAR) 15283 of 1 January 2008 provides duty free quota free market access for African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries that have concluded an EPA. The Regulation requires countries to initiate the ratification process of the Agreement within a “reasonable period of time”. At it currently stands, the MAR is a temporary, unilateral instrument of the EU to ensure that, pending the implementation of the agreement by ACP countries, there would be no trade disruption.
The new Commission’s proposal reveals the following facts: Only 18 island countries from the 36 ACP countries that had initialled or signed an arrangement have consummated their marriage. The other remaining countries are yet to complete the nuptial contract, with the risk of seeing their marriage cancelled (see Annex 1 for the list of countries covered by the Commission’s Proposal).