Controversial Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are currently back on the agenda as several African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries again face a loss of market access if they do not ratify their EPAs by 1 October 2016. To make matters worse, Brexit has brought with it an element of uncertainty and is prompting some ACP countries to reconsider their decision to sign EPAs. The EPAs were introduced under the trade pillar of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (PLA), which governs relations between the European Union (EU) and ACP countries. The EPAs represent a slippery start in EU-ACP trade relations: they not only introduce the trade preferences of both sides, but are also organised on a regional basis to promote regional integration within ACP countries. This background paper updates the different EPA processes and examines the extent to which they have effectively achieved the EU`s stated objective of promoting regionalism in ACP countries, as well as the alignment of EPAs with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the debate on the future of EU-ACP cooperation. The EPAs have only partially facilitated regional integration in acp countries. Epa negotiations have resulted in region-wide agreements consistent with existing integration initiatives in only three regions: the Caribbean, the East African Community (EAC) and West Africa. The EPAs have acted as a „mittfrau“ for further integration in these regions, but it is possible that the EAC and West African EPAs will not be signed before the October deadline. In the other regions – Pacific, Central, Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) – EPAs have complicated the future prospects for regional integration and, in some cases, contributed to a „lockdown“ of fragmented regionalism.

One of the reasons for this mixed record is the tension between the principles of „regionalization“ of the PCA, which recognizes the importance of regional integration for development; and „differentiation“, which advocates treating States differently according to their level of development. WpA aimed to encourage groups of states to sign the agreements as regional blocs, but the EU`s Everything But Arms (EBA) regime undermines regional EPAs by offering non-reciprocal trade preferences to least developed countries (TNPs). This divides ACP regions into NTPs and non-NTPs, making it difficult to conclude regional EPAs. Given the on-date struggle to conclude regional EPAs and the uncertainty of Brexit, the EU should consider extending the 1 October deadline to give ACP countries more time to reconsider their positions and work towards further harmonisation of regional relations. As regional integration is crucial for the economic development of ACP countries, future cooperation should be aware of the need for convergence of EPAs, sustainable development goals and regional integration. Bonn: The Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) of the German Development Institute (DIE) are legally binding bilateral agreements between the European Union and individual African countries. Once signed, the EPAs guarantee that around 80% of the country`s market should be open to European goods and services within a decade. But this is as much a Pyrrhic victory as any other, as the early opening of markets means that African agricultural and non-agricultural production is struggling to compete with the probably cheaper, perhaps better and even larger supplies of goods and services from European countries. The Africa Program strives to address the most critical issues facing Africa and U.S.-Africa relations, to establish mutually beneficial relationships between the United States and Africa, and to improve knowledge and understanding of Africa in the United States. .

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