After nine years of delay, the European Union has finalized The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with six developing African economies (Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana, Swaziland, South Africa and Lesotho). The EPA was originally due to be completed by 2007 but due to protracted negotiations that lasted till 2014, it had taken another 2 years after the Parliament finally ratified it on Wednesday (14 September). During the process, Angola dropped out and is not a signatory country.
According to Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, chief rapporteur for the talks, EPA places a lot of emphasis on human rights and development – “the language on human rights and sustainable development is one of the strongest that you will find in any EU agreement,” Mr Lambsdorff said. While the EU has always included human rights, this policy has recently been reinforced again under the “Trade for All“ banner and the promise of Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom to make human rights a factor in all future trade talks.
Mr Lambsdorff further added that “this agreement will help our African partner states to reduce poverty and can also facilitate their smooth and gradual integration into the world economy“ as “there are also many safeguards in the deal to ensure that local people truly benefit from this cooperation.” The EPA will in effect positively discriminate against the six African states by an immediate duty-free and quota-free access for their exports to the EU.
The deal covers development cooperation and trade but omits intellectual property, public procurement and investment, which has been criticized in the past as the world’s poorest countries often have very little to export to the EU single market and only open their borders to EU corporations. In order to avoid this problem, the EU has decided not to subsidize its agricultural exports to the countries of the deal.