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Market access implications for EPAs

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Monday, 21 September 2009

Market access implications for EPAs

The Economic Partnership Agreements between ACP countries and the European Commission must comply with Article XXIV of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which governs regional trade agreements concluded by WTO members. Article XXIV stipulates that ‘free trade areas’ must eliminate duties on “substantially all the trade” within a “reasonable length of time,” yet these terms remain loosely defined in the WTO. West Africa and the European Commission hold divergent views on the definition of these two terms. This article highlights the legal arguments in support of West Africa’s position. One of the most important and contentious issues in ACP-EU EPA negotiations relates to the interpretation of Article XXIV of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and determining the market access offers of the parties. The EU stands by its position of a minimal trade coverage rate of 80 percent in ACP regions, over a 15-year liberalisation schedule. Some regions, such as Western Africa, argue that a 60 percent coverage rate along with a 25-year implementation period would not be WTO-incompatible.

Source: ICTSD