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Guide for understanding European Union Economic Partnership Agreements

Guide for understanding European Union Economic Partnership Agreements

The Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) signed by the European Union with African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries facilitate access to new markets by providing a more attractive commercial framework for doing business. Learn more about these deals.
These agreements are established within the framework of the Cotonou Agreement of 2000, which governs relations between the EU and the ACP countries until 2020.

The objective of the EPAs is to contribute to the development of the country or group of ACP countries involved in the agreement, through the liberalization of trade in goods and taking into account regional circumstances. However, this liberalization is asymmetrical, since the opening of EU markets is direct, whereas for the ACP countries it is progressively achieved in 15-25 years. However, EPAs also provide opportunities for EU businesses, facilitating their access to non-traditional markets.

Lower trade barriers and greater investment attractiveness

As indicated, EPAs entail a progressive reduction of tariffs for the entry of European products into ACP countries. In addition, they are usually signed with a group of countries in the same region, where there is usually a different trade regime for the importation of European products, so the agreement leads to the establishment of a more homogeneous market access regime with all signatory countries.

The levels of development of the countries or groups of countries that are signatories to the EPA are heterogeneous, as well as a great diversity of regional agreements. This multiplicity of regulations hinders exports and investment. However, the harmonization of the trade regime of these countries with the EU as a result of the EPA favors regional integration. This boost of international relations also favors European companies, increasing the capillarity of the commercial networks with the markets of the region.

The alignment of the agreement with an international commercial regulatory framework (commitment to World Trade Organization rules) strengthens the attractiveness of the investment , in a climate of greater legal certainty. Likewise, the countries that signed the EPA commit themselves to promoting sustainable development in compliance with international environmental and social standards. This allows avoiding cases of unfair dumping competition, creating a more attractive competitive environment for foreign investors.

Advantages of existing agreements

Currently, the EU has signed six EEAs with ACP countries. European companies can find out about the agreements on the European Commission’s website, where all the information on the agreements signed and the preferential advantages available to European companies in each of them is available.

There are certain specific rules of origin for the association agreements that European companies must meet before exporting. Therefore, in order to benefit from the preferential duties, European exporters must accompany the products of an EAA proof of origin. This proof of origin is demonstrated by presenting a movement certificate EUR1, although in some cases the simplified procedure allows the origin of the products to be justified by means of an invoice declaration issued by an exporter. The simplified method may be used in the case of exports of less than or equal to 6,000 euros or of approved exporters.

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