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Wednesday, 10 August 2016

EPA is EU's Current Model Framework

The economic partnership agreement (EPA) is the EU’s current model framework governing trade, investment and cooperation with developing countries on a reciprocal basis. It is the successor to the Cotonou Agreement of 2000 with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. Only the Caribbean has signed an EPA. The EU has sought to negotiate with African regional groups. This has proved challenging since the membership of the bodies are at different stages of development. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) provides a good example. Nigeria and The Gambia have declined to sign an EPA for the community. The opposition in Nigeria is led by the manufacturers’ lobby. Nigerian manufacturing may be advanced within the context of ECOWAS but is dominated by consumer goods and light industry. Its representatives fear that the reciprocal access granted to EU member countries under an EPA would jeopardise attempts to create a regional manufacturing powerhouse with a heavy industrial component. We have some sympathy for this argument. EPAs may be accepted by the many small African economies for the lack of an alternative. It may be asked why South Africa has signed up to an agreement with five members of its regional body (SADC).