Economic Partnership Agreement

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The term economic partnership agreements (EPAs) and Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) designated by the EU -sponsored agreement on free trade areas between the EU and the 78 ACP countries (mostly former European colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the South Pacific).

The EPA's contractual basis is the Cotonou Agreement , which was signed on June 23, 2000 by the member states of the EU and the member states of the group of ACP countries in Cotonou, Benin. Concrete EPA negotiations have been ongoing since 2002.

The central aim of the agreement was to replace the non-reciprocal trade preferences of the Lomé Agreement (1975 to 2000) criticized by the WTO with reciprocal trade agreements by January 1, 2008.

In 2014, the EU concluded a regional agreement with West Africa ( ECOWAS ) and Southern Africa ( SADC ). At the end of 2007 a regional economic partnership agreement was concluded between the EU and the Caribbean (CARIFORUM = Caribbean Forum of ACP-States).

The term partnership agreements is often used in a simplistic way .

Historical background

Trade relations between the EU and the ACP countries date back to the colonial era. When the European Community was founded, a possible independence of the colonies was not yet foreseen. With decolonization , the question arose of how trade should be organized in the future. The Yaoundé Agreements (Yaoundé I 1964–1969 and Yaoundé II 1971–1975) enabled a large degree of continuity in the colonial trade patterns between the former colonies and the respective “mother countries” - agricultural and mineral raw materials in exchange for processed trade products without an increase Vertical integration, intensified regional trade relationships or improved market access. A development policy component was also missing. During the term of Yaoundé I and II, the share of ACP imports into the EU decreased from 5.6% of EU imports from developing countries in 1958 to 2.9%. (Holland 2002: 30).

The Lomé Convention replaced the Yaoundé Convention in 1975. The goals and contents of the agreement reflect numerous historical changes: During the accession negotiations to the European Community, Great Britain insisted that a privileged trading partnership with its former colonies should continue. At the same time, the ACP states were constituted as a new political union and resolutely advocated a New World Economic Order. In the form of preferential access to the European market and in the form of guaranteed prices for mineral and agricultural raw materials, concepts of the New World Economic Order have found their way into the Lomé Convention. Development policy components became more and more important in the course of the four Lomé Conventions, in particular concepts for promoting democracy, protecting human rights and the rule of law. Admittedly, Lomé was unable to meet many of the expectations set in the agreement. Southern Africa remained marginalized; the contribution of African countries to world trade fell to 2% in 1990 and 1.65% in 1997 (Kappel 1999: 23). The import and export structures did not diversify and remained stuck in colonial production patterns.

After the end of the Warsaw Pact, a political window of opportunity opened up to renegotiate the trade agreements under changed premises. Two aspects are central to this:

1) The end of the bloc confrontation created a political vacuum. For the ACP countries this was connected with the possibility of entering into new political ties. For the EU, this also meant that its previously undisputed position of power had to be readjusted in an increasingly multipolar world order, but that design options were also available for a new partnership between the two groups of countries.

2) The establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) marked the rise of a neoliberal world trade order. Linked to this was a far-reaching criticism of non-reciprocal trade preferences, as guaranteed by Lomé. This was the part of the WTO panel be seen as a trade-discrimination, in justified cases, for developing countries exemptions, however - so-called waiver may be requested -. The aim was therefore to conclude an agreement with reciprocal trade preferences. In addition to tariffs and quotas, the so-called non-tariff trade barriers were identified as a central problem for EU-ACP trade relations. For example, competition policies, technical, sanitary and phytosanitary standards, subsidies, anti-dumping measures, environmental and social policy provisions, intellectual property rights and investment conditions were named.

The key points for a new agreement between the EU and ACP countries were laid down in the 1996 Green Paper "Green Paper on Relations between the European Union and the ACP Countries on the Eve of the 21st Century". The EU-ACP relationship should now primarily be a political partnership, in which the specific interests and needs of trade and development policy should not be decisive, but rather the broader foreign policy framework of North-South relations (EU COM 1996: vi). The Commission names three pillars on which a foreign policy identity should be based: an effective common foreign and security policy (CFSP), an effective and differentiated development policy and a multilateral trade policy aimed at opening up markets. The self-image of the EU and the ideal of a new bilateral relationship remain ambivalent and contain both the historical motive of post-colonial responsibility for the ACP states, the motive of a normative model within an equal partnership, and thirdly, the foreign and trade policy motive, to maintain supremacy over the ACP states within a now multipolar world order and to remain the most important trading partner.

Negotiation process

Negotiations on the EPAs began in the summer of 2002 after the Directorates-General for Trade and Development had received a negotiating mandate from the European Council on June 17, 2002, and the ACP countries had also formulated a common basis for negotiation. The negotiating agenda was initially very broad and included many topics from the Cotonou Agreement , such as the idea of ​​a political partnership, regional integration , protection of human rights and the implementation of core labor standards . In addition to poverty alleviation and good governance , it defined on the one hand classic trade liberalization (in the sense of a mutual abolition of tariffs and quotas) but on the other hand also the dismantling of non-tariff trade barriers (in the sense of "deep integration") as goals of the free trade agreement to be negotiated. The negotiations did not take place with the entire AKP group, but with six negotiating regions, some of which correspond to existing regional trade alliances (such as the Southern African Development Community or ECOWAS ), but some of which were at right angles to them, for example in the case of the East and Southern African Region (ESA).

In Africa in particular, the negotiations were characterized by extreme delays, strategy changes, strict deadlines and considerable political pressure. During the term of office of trade policy commissioner Peter Mandelson , development policy content was largely ignored and there was a focus on non-tariff trade barriers. The draft treaties used were based on clauses in the free trade agreements with Russia and Chile and met with broad criticism from the AKP negotiating groups. Since the WTO waiver was due to expire on December 31, 2007 and the EU had not applied for an extension, the negotiating situation deteriorated dramatically in autumn 2007. European trade associations voted for a radical course that favored the abolition of non-tariff trade barriers - the so-called "new generation trade issues"; At the same time, AKP representatives spoke out vigorously against this content of the treaty, as this was viewed as an intervention in economic sovereignty. The central threat instrument for the Directorate-General for Trade was that non-signatory ACP countries would automatically lose their trade preferences on January 1, 2008 and could only export to the EU under the conditions of the General System of Preferences. In addition, the award of trade-related development aid should be linked to the ACP states' approval of the "new generation trade issues". 36 out of 78 states, such as Botswana, Namibia or Mozambique, accepted the draft treaties and initiated the interim agreements, but did not continue to implement them; others - in particular Least Developed Countries - voted against it, so that a political patchwork was created in the individual negotiating regions. In the following years, from 2009 under Commissioner Catherine Ashton, a new start was attempted with a considerably reduced negotiating agenda. The negotiations in all EPA regions continued; with the aim of integrating more states in a region into the respective interim agreement and agreeing on broader liberalization.

A second deadline for signing the partnership agreement ended on October 1, 2014. At that time, an important point of contention was the desire of the African states to want to protect and promote their economies, which in the WTO logic was seen as trade-distorting and opposed to the desired market opening. Under the threat of imposing EU punitive tariffs on African imports, ECOWAS, SADC and East African countries each signed separate EPAs. However, these focus on the gradual reduction of tariffs and quotas. "New generation trade issues" are not explicitly included, but the agreements stipulate that these will be back on the agenda in the event of regular renegotiations.

Key elements


With the intention of eliminating the previous incompatibility of the existing trade agreements with the rules of the WTO, the main emphasis in the negotiations on the EPAs will be on non-discrimination and reciprocity. They mean the gradual abolition of all trade advantages granted by the EU to the ACP states since 1975 and the short-term abolition of all trade barriers that exist between the partner states . In order to guarantee non-discriminatory market access, the EPAs are to be open to all developing countries , so that the status of the ACP states as the main development partners of the EU is limited.

In the negotiations on the EPAs, the EU is faced with the dilemma of having to preserve the special status of the ACP states stemming from the colonial past, both normatively and materially, and of fulfilling the obligations arising from membership in the WTO. The solution to this problem is an agreement that stipulates a minimum of reciprocity in order to meet the WTO criteria, but in reality gives the ACP states enough leeway to maintain trade protection for their most important products.

The extent of trade liberalization in the context of the Economic Partnership Agreements is controversial. Various studies that examined the possible effects of open markets in this context warn of foreseeable negative consequences. A delegation from the European Committee of the French National Assembly published an extensive report in July 2006 that corroborates these warnings. The report identifies four shocks ACP countries would face if they opened their markets:

1. A budget shock due to the expected loss of income due to the abolition of import duties ;

2. a foreign trade shock from falling exchange rates if the ACP countries cannot compete;

3. A shock to the weak, developing industrial sectors in the ACP countries, which cannot face competition from the EU;

4. An agricultural shock, as local markets and producers cannot compete with the cheap imports from the European Union (highly subsidized).

It is therefore uncertain whether the existing WTO provisions on regional trade agreements will ultimately be revised by the Doha Round in favor of the Economic Partnership Agreements.

The negative consequences of which the delegation of the European Committee of the French National Assembly warned in 2006 have now partially occurred (as of December 2015).


In accordance with the Cotonou principle of differentiation and regionalization , the developing countries should be enabled to act in regional groups within the EPAs, to promote regional integration and to promote trade within the regions. At the initiative of the EU, seven regional groups were formed within the ACP states that act as negotiating partners with the EU. These regional groups are:

  • the Economic Community of West African States - West African Economic Community / West African Economic and Monetary Union ( ECOWAS / UEMOA )
  • la Communauté économique et monétaire de l'Afrique centrale - Central African Economic and Monetary Community ( CEMAC )
  • the East African Community ( EAC )
  • the Eastern and Southern Africa - Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA)
  • the Southern African Development Community / South African Customs Union ( SADC / SACU )
  • the Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific States - Caribbean Community (CARIFORUM: CARICOM and Dominican Republic )
  • the Pacific region ( Papua New Guinea and Fiji )

Specific questions

The new regional grouping raises the question of how to deal within the EPAs with the group of the poorest countries in the world (so-called LDC countries ) within the group of ACP countries. These countries have enjoyed privileged treatment in previous trade agreements. At the moment (early 2007) 39 of the 77 ACP states are defined as LDCs by the United Nations .

In contrast to the other ACP countries, if an EPA is not signed, the “ Everything but Arms ” agreement automatically applies to LDCs . This system of privileged trade relations between the EU and LDC states (also outside the ACP group) was decided by the EU Council of Ministers in 2001 and enables the poorest countries to deliver unlimited quantities of all products - with the exception of weapons - duty-free in the EU export. For the LDC states within the ACP group, not signing an EPA would be less of a problem than for non-LDCs. Non-LDCs automatically revert to the less advantageous “General System of Preferences” (GSP) if they are not signed.

On the 2014 situation

"On July 10, 2014, the 16 West African heads of state in Accra, the capital of Ghana, signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU, the 15 states of the Communauté économique des Etats d'Afrique de l'Ouest (CEDEAO - West African Economic Community) and Mauritania initialed. On July 22, 2014, another EPA was initialed by 6 southern African countries. In October, the members of the East African Community signed an economic agreement with the EU. "

On the 2016 situation

Due to the Lisbon Treaty , the EU is obliged to shape its trade policy in such a way that it also promotes the goals of European development cooperation. Since the preference given to African ACP countries by trade preferences over the past 40 years has not helped national economies to diversify and since competition for African raw materials has intensified, different interests have developed in the EU.

In the EPA negotiations, for example, the EU went beyond the WTO requirements. B. insisted that the ACP countries would not be allowed to adopt any new export tariffs or protective tariffs in the future, thus securing permanent access to cheap raw materials.

Instead of the policy of helping people to help themselves , the EPAs follow the logic of free trade and rely on the development in the ACP countries being driven forward through direct investments .

Since the EPAs with the African states only regulate the free trade in goods and do not include services and investments against the original will of the EU, an effective industrial policy is left to the African states. The options left open by the WPAs must be used “actively”, according to the Heinrich Böll and Friedrich Ebert Foundation .

80% of the import volume of each ACP country from the EU should be processed duty-free. This 80% should be achieved after a transition period of up to 20 years. 20% of the import volume can be permanently protected from international competition. According to a further clause, protective tariffs should be able to be levied " if there is a risk of significant damage to local industry ".

As the countries Ghana , Ivory Coast , Kenya , Botswana , Namibia and Swaziland have not yet been convinced of this strategy, the European Commission wants to end the access privileges to the EU market for these countries in July 2016 in order to persuade them to do so by 1. October 2016 to ratify the partnership agreement .

The BMZ has announced that the EPAs will also be submitted to the Bundestag for a vote.

In the summer of 2016, " only three out of 16 West African countries are resisting ratification of the agreement: Nigeria, Mauritania and Niger. Most of the other countries are dependent on European development aid and have long bowed to the pressure. " Nigerian economists warn " that EPA would turn our markets into a dump for European products. "

Critical campaign

A critical campaign called StopEPA follows initiatives from African civil society that reject EPAs in their current form and advocate economically, socially and ecologically more sustainable alternatives. The supporters of the campaign in Germany include:

More criticism

Human rights activists criticize the fact that the “ Everything But Arms ” agreement in Cambodia resulted in sugar companies driving small farmers from their land. The film Land Grab by director Kurt Langbein documents this. The organization Saving the Rainforest reported about it and started a petition to the European Union.

The EPAs are supposed to serve sustainable development, but local capacities are needed in governments and administrations and a local private sector is needed that is interested in actually using free market access to Europe.

Contrary to the presentation by the EU, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung sees a paradigm shift in European Africa policy. It is less about development and more about economic and trade interests. Africa's dependence on imports could increase due to the EPAs and trade between African states could suffer.

The economies of Sub-Saharan Africa have not yet been positioned for a comprehensive transformation. The emergence of African industries is hindered by the EPA. In addition, cheap Chinese goods would also hinder the establishment and development of own productions.

Resistance to the EPA had spread through all layers of African society, civil society's trust in African governments had been weakened and relations with the EU had been damaged for years.

Chancellor Günter Nooke's Africa Commissioner is of the opinion that the EPAs destroyed a lot of things that development cooperation is trying to build. The UN economic expert for East Africa Andrew Mold sees the African economy as threatened in the long term by the EPAs and the MEP Ska Keller believes that the EPAs do not give the partner countries any breathing space to develop their industry. In contrast, MEP Michael Gahler is of the opinion that the EPAs would offer the African states the chance to catch up with Europe, the freedom of the movement of goods would have brought prosperity to the Europeans.

Individual evidence

  1. Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA): No Happy Ending for Africa? by Patrick Timmann, EurActiv , June 4th 2014
  2. Economic Partnership Agreement , Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, accessed on June 6, 2016
  3. European Commission 2009 [1]
  4. ^ Holland, Martin: The European Union and the Third World . PalgraveMacmillan, Hampshire 2002, pp. 20 .
  5. ^ Bernhard Schmid: France in Africa. A (neo) colonial power in the European Union at the beginning of the 21st century. Unrast Verlag, Münster 2010.
  6. Deutsche Welthungerhilfe: Lomé III: critical analyzes of the relationship between the European Community and the Third World . Ed .: Deutsche Welthungerhilfe. Bonn 1985.
  7. Weitz, Robert: The Lomé Convention: Transition or Alternative to a New World Economic Order? Institute for Economic Policy at the University of Cologne, Cologne 1978, OCLC 4316739 .
  8. ^ A b Müller, Franziska .: In the name of liberal norms? Governmentality in EU-ACP relations. Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG, 2015, OCLC 959147976 , p. 230 .
  9. ^ Robert Kappel: The development cooperation between Europe and the ACP states. An assessment of the developmental consequences of the Lomé model . In: Mir A. Ferdowsi, Mir A. / Peter Opitz (Eds.): From Enthusiasm to Disenchantment? The development policy of the European Union. No. 27/1999 . Series of publications by the Third World Research Center at the Geschwister Scholl Institute for Political Science at the University of Munich, Munich 1999, p. 22-44 .
  10. ^ A b c European Commission: Green Paper on Relations between the European Union and the ACP Countries on the Eve of the 21st Century . Ed .: European Commission. COM (96) 570. Brussels, 20 November 1996, p. 30 .
  11. ^ EU Commission: Green Paper on Relations between the European Union and the ACP Countries on the Eve of the 21st Century . Ed .: EU Commission. COM (96) 570. Brussels, 20 November 1996.
  12. ^ European Council: Directives for the Negotiations of Economic Partnership Agreements with ACP Countries and Regions . Ed .: European Council. Annex I to Doc 9930/02. Brussels June 12, 2002.
  13. ^ ACP Group: ACP Guidelines for the Negotiations of Economic Partnership Agreements . Ed .: ACP Group. ACP / 61/056/02. Brussels 5th July 2002.
  14. a b c d e Impulse or obstacle to development? , by Annette Lohmann, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, July 2015
  15. ^ Overseas Development Institute: Briefing Paper No. 23: Economic Partnership Agreements. What happens in 2008? Ed .: Overseas Development Institute. London 2007.
  16. INSAT: Inside Southern African Trade . Ed .: USAID. Newsletter 8/2007. Southern African Global Competitiveness Hub, Gaborone 2007.
  17. a b c d Recommendation on the proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion of the Interim Agreement establishing a framework for an Economic Partnership Agreement between the states of Eastern and Southern Africa, on the one hand, and the European Community and its member states, on the other hand , Report by Daniel Caspary, 19 . December 2012
  18. a b Economic Partnership Agreement: The ultimatum expires , by Clara Brandi and Dominique Bruhn, German Development Institute (DIE), September 29, 2014
  19. a b The EU wants to be treated like Africa , by Cornelia Füllkrug-Weitzel, Der Tagesspiegel, October 7, 2015
  20. a b c Publik-Forum No. 4/2007 v. February 23, 2007, p. 18
  21. Alexander Göbel: How the EU is destroying Ghana's poultry industry: The fairy tale of fair trade. Internet portal, December 13, 2015
  22. EU-Africa Relations , Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), accessed on July 1, 2016
  23. a b c d e Europe, Africa and the Transatlantic. The North-South Challenge for Development-Oriented Trade Policy , by Helmut Asche, Heinrich Böll Foundation, October 2015
  24. Support for regional and national institutions in the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA / EPA) , German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ)
  25. Trade Regulations for Developing Countries , European Union
  26. Brief descriptions of the European Union , European Union, accessed on July 2, 2016
  27. epa information from attac , accessed on January 16, 2016.
  28. a b EU Economic Partnership Agreement with Sub-Saharan Africa , Evita Schmieg, Science and Politics Foundation (SWP), November 2013
  29. a b Why the EPAs must be prevented in their current form. , by Dirk Kohnert, International Politics and Society (IPG), June 4, 2014
  30. a b Fighting the causes of flight better by Thomas Otto, Deutschlandfunk (DLF), November 10, 2015
  31. Economic Partnership Agreement, Focus on Development , Socialist Group in the European Parliament (PES), 2009
  32. A man picks against Europe , by Matthias Krupa and Caterina Lobenstein , Die Zeit, December 30, 2015
  33. a b Promoting economic development in southern Africa , Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), accessed on July 3, 2016
  34. Brussels threatens African countries with the withdrawal of privileges , by Cécile Barbière, Der Tagesspiegel / EurActiv , June 10, 2016
  35. Economist Hafsat Abiola-Costello: Europe creates the refugees themselves. August 1, 2016, accessed on August 2, 2016 .
  41. Free trade agreement between the EU and African regions: »Good compromise, but the conditions for success are outside the agreement« , interview with Evita Schmieg, Science and Politics Foundation (SWP), October 1, 2014
  42. Trade Policy Options for Sub-Saharan Africa , by Evita Schmieg, Science and Politics Foundation (SWP), April 2015
  43. Merkel's Africa Officer: “EU Free Trade Agreement EPA destroys development aid” , by Dario Sarmadi, EurActiv , November 6, 2014

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