Several ACP countries sign an agreement with the EU
The Cotonou Agreement planned for free trade agreements to be signed between the EU and six ACP regions by 31 December 2007 at the latest. These agreements, called Economic Partnership Agreements, need to incorporate rules on trading goods, but also services and support measures that limit the adverse effects of EPAs.
In light of the delays in negotiations in the different ACP regions, the European Commission proposed intermediary agreements that only address trading goods and can be signed by each country, not just at the regional level. These agreements are referred to as intermediary because they have to be completed by new agreements on trading services and support measures. Intermediary agreements will only be concluded with countries that wish to sign them that are not prepared to sign the full agreements.
Signing intermediary agreements makes it possible to set up a trade arrangement that complies with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. Indeed, the exemption that allows the Lomé preferential trade regime (non-compliant with WTO rules) to stay in effect ends on 31 December 2007. On the other hand, signing the agreements at the national level poses a risk to regional integration options. One hopes that the additional delay in negotiations will result in global agreements that enable a regional integration that constitutes a real driver for economic development in ACP countries. In practical terms, in the intermediary agreements, every country that signs, including those within the same region, has negotiated its own list of tangible products and its own market entries. This national specificity does not currently allow for shared customs barriers to be put into place in all the countries, which makes it even less possible to form customs unions and thus integrated regions.
Countries that have signed an EPA (currently 35) :
Eastern Africa : Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Namibia, Seychelles, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar
Southern Africa : Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland
Western Africa : Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana
Central Africa : Cameroon
Pacific : Papua New Guinea, Fiji
The Carribbean (15 countries) : signed a full EPA at the regional level
Sources : European Commission, Trade Division
"Update : Interim Economic Partnership Agreements - 19 December 2007"
"Note of the state of play in the EPAs negotiations - 20 december 2007"