'The EU's Economic Partnership Agreements with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries'
One of the outcomes of the WTO 2001 Doha Ministerial Meeting was a WTO waiver for the EU’s unilateral tariff preferences on goods from 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, thereby protecting a system which would otherwise have been in violation of the WTO’s most favoured nation obligation. However, this waiver was to expire on 31 December 2007. This left only two legal options for the continuation of these preferences: either the EU could make these unilateral preferences non-discriminatory in terms of the WTO Enabling Clause, or it could conclude reciprocal free trade agreements with the ACP countries. The EU and most of the ACP countries chose the latter option, and commenced an ambitious program of negotiating six regional Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA), which were to cover not only trade in goods, but also trade in services, intellectual property, investment, and so on. But it has not been smooth sailing. Only one regional group – the Cariforum – has concluded a full EPA, while the others have gone no further than signing limited ‘Interim EPAs’ covering only goods, with little prospect that these will be implemented any time soon. The process has also revealed tensions in the EU’s external trade and development policies, which has caused damage to the EU’s standing, particularly in Africa – the exact opposite of what was intended. This presentation will explore the background to the relations between the EU and the ACP countries, the negotiation process, the different interests of the parties, and finally some of the systemic problems with the EPA process in terms of the regional integration initiatives of the ACP states themselves.