The objectives of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are to establish new WTO-compatible trade arrangements before the current trade arrangements expire on
31 December 2007 and to support ACP regional integration and foster the smooth and gradual integration of the ACP states into the world economy, particularly by
helping create larger ACP regional markets, thereby contributing to sustainable development and poverty reduction.
This is reflected in the negotiating directives adopted by the Council when authorising the Commission to open negotiations, which foresee the Commission
negotiating full EPAs with ACP regions. These EPAs will contain provisions in trade-related areas, trade-related rules and trade in services and include appropriate
links to development co-operation.
The Commission believes that such full agreements are essential to meet the ultimate objective of ACP-EU economic and trade cooperation which, as expressed in Article 34(2) of the Cotonou Agreement, is to enable the ACP States to play a full part in international trade. The primary objective of the Commission is, therefore, to secure full regional EPAs within the deadline set by the expiry of the current trade arrangements. This is achievable in some regions. For the other regions, this
Communication sets out the approach to ensuring progress to full regional EPAs is maintained while avoiding, in so far as possible, any interruption to the trade regime for goods originating in the ACP countries.
Article 37(1) of the Cotonou Agreement stipulates that new ACP-EU trading arrangements set out in EPAs shall enter into force by 1 January 2008. After this date
both the trade preferences set out in Annex V of the Cotonou Agreement and the waiver granted in 2001 by the WTO1 will no longer be in force. This expiry of current market access arrangements therefore places a firm deadline of end 2007 to negotiate the goods market access aspect of EPAs.
This waiver permits a derogation from the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).