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Economic Partnership Agreement (Epa)

Free trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, provide for duty-free trade in goods and services between nations and the removal of other barriers to trade. Economic Partnership Agreements contain the same provisions as a free trade agreement, but go beyond free trade agreements. In addition to free trade, the EPAs provide for the free movement of persons and contain provisions on public procurement, international competition and cooperation, customs procedures and international dispute settlement. It is more than a free trade agreement (FTA), as it contains a strong component of development, with clear links with development aid for the adaptation and modernization of the Cariforum economies. The EU is implementing seven Economic Partnership Agreements with 32 partners, including 14 in Africa. The main objective of epas is to use trade and investment for sustainable development. The content of the agenda will be broadened, with agreements covering new topics such as services and investment. Negotiations on Economic Partnership Agreements can take years. The agreements address in detail a wide range of topics, all of which must be balanced to provide benefits to all parties.

An agreement between nations with a strong history of trade and cooperation may be less difficult, as was the case with the Economic Partnership Agreements signed in 2007 by the European Union and the Asian, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. This is why the EPAs provide for special regimes for this specific group. Another weakness of the EBA`s initiative is that it uses the GSP rules of origin, which require a two-stage transformation for textiles and clothing. In contrast, the EPA rules of origin allow for a single-step transformation for exports from these sectors. This is one of the reasons why Mozambique and Lesotho (both LDCs) initialled the EU`s interim EPA in November 2007 and signed the agreement in July 2009. Angola (the other LDC in the SADC EPA configuration) has decided to continue trade under the EBA, given that its main exports to the EU are oil and diamonds, which are duty-free and quota-free as originating products “fully obtained” in accordance with EBA rules of origin. Due to the persistent incompatibility of previous agreements with the WTO, EPAs are primarily their reciprocity and non-discriminatory nature. . . .

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REP   ACTING: VLA     VO: SUE TERRY VOICES    LIT: RICHARD SCRIVENER

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