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Economic Partnership Agreements: A 'historic step' towards a 'partnership of equals'?

Working papers

This paper argues that the (interim) EPAs initialled between the EU and less than half of all ACP states at the end of last year do not represent a 'historic step' in EU-ACP relations. The majority of EPAs concluded to date are neither complete nor comprehensive trade agreements. Almost all signatory states were countries that would bear substantial economic costs if they lost their preferences in the EU market. Many ACP states submitted hastily drawn up liberalisation schedules that did not consider whether their liberalisation commitments were in line with their neighbour. This has significant implications for future regional integration processes. To revise individual timetables and bring them into line on a regional basis, as envisaged by the Commission, will be a mammoth task.  It is further argued that the enforcement of the EPA implementation is unlikely in some cases given the decreasing attractiveness of the EU market, and the Commission's dwindling capacity to sanction non-compliance by withdrawing preferences. If the EU wants to see EPAs implemented, it is vital that both the process and outcome are owned and supported by both sides.

Mareike Meyn