The EU has been negotiating EPAs with ACP countries for over ten years - altogether with 76 countries across Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific. These trade deals could have devastating effects on some of the world's poorest countries. Many African governments have been critical of the negotiations, expressing concerns that the agreements do more to benefit European economic interests than their own. With numerous controversial issues yet to be addressed, most have resisted signing up.
The current proposal put on the table by the Commission would see 18 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries lose preferential access to European markets unless they implement EPAs by the beginning of 2014, despite the many contentious issues that remain to be addressed in the negotiations.
On 21st june the EU Committee on International Trade (INTA) took the unexpected step of calling on the European Commission to give developing countries an extra two years to negotiate their EPAs before they lose valuable, preferential access to European markets. ‘2014 is simply not a fair or realistic deadline for these countries to have finalised and ratified EPAs’, said David Martin, the MEP responsible for preparing the European Parliament’s response to the proposal.
This comes on the back of those ACP representatives calling for ‘the immediate withdrawal of the proposed measures in view of their overall detrimental effects and the EU Development Committee denouncing the proposal. Although civil society is calling for the rejection of the Commission’s proposal, the decision in the INTA committee was welcomed by other ACP representatives and buys valuable time to negotiate better agreements.
And there is still a chance to defeat the proposal when it comes up for a vote in the European Parliament on September 12th.
However the European Commission was presenting an ultimatum to 18 developing countries involved in the negotiations - a new attempt to force these agreements through. The Commission has proposed that preferential access to the European market be withdrawn from these countries unless they implement EPAs with the EU. If they don’t, countries such as Mozambique and Namibia will be forced to compete on an equal footing with countries like Brazil, which could have disastrous effects on some of their key industries. The European Parliament can now vote against this proposal and force the Commission to rethink its plans.
The briefing paper explains:
- What are EPAS and why are they being negotiated?
- Why are negotiations taking so long in Africa?
- What are the contentious issues in EPAs?
- Is the EC twisting arms to get a deal done?
- Is GSP a genuine alternative to EPAs?
- What future for African trade?