EU Economic Partnership Agreements resources
The European Union (EU) is currently negotiating a series of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the 79 countries from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) region with the aim of promoting ACP-EU trade and ultimately contributing, through trade and investment, to sustainable development and poverty reduction. They are based on the principle of asymmetrical market opening, meaning that they provide a better access to the EU market for ACP partners. EPAs replace the previous market access regime of unilateral preferences for ACP countries. To date, negotiations have been concluded with SADC, the EAC, Central Africa (Cameroon), several East and Southern African countries, and the West Africa EPA group (Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire).
SADC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement
On 10 June 2016, the European Union (EU) and six countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) EPA Group – comprising Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland (BLNS), South Africa and Mozambique – signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the first of its kind between the EU and an African region pursuing the objective of economic integration. The signature took place in Kasane, Botswana. Following signature, the agreement was submitted for approval to the European Parliament, and for ratification in the Southern African countries and in the 28 EU Member States according to national ratification procedures.
On 10 October 2016, the SADC EPA entered into provisional application between the EU and Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland. Mozambique ratified the agreement on 28 April 2017, becoming the last piece of the SADC-EPA jigsaw to fall into place. Following provisional application, the Parties are addressing implementation issues including the twin questions of EPA monitoring and civil-society involvement and putting in place the institutional framework for the Agreement.
The EU had earlier concluded negotiations for an EPA with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland on 15 July 2014, ending 10 years of negotiations. Although an Agreement was reached to replace the interim EPA signed by the EU and Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland in June 2009, it was never ratified.
The other six members of the SADC regional economic bloc – the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Zambia and Zimbabwe – are negotiating EPAs with the EU as part of other regional groups, namely Central Africa or Eastern and Southern Africa. Angola is an observer.
Visit the SADC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement Resources page for more.
EAC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement
On 16 October 2014, the Eastern African Community Partner States (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda) finalised the negotiations for a region-to-region Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU. The agreement covers trade in goods and development cooperation. It also contains an extensive chapter on fisheries – aiming mainly to reinforce cooperation on the sustainable use of resources – and foresees further negotiations on services and trade-related rules in the future.
The texts agreed by the chief negotiators have been initialled and checked by EU and EAC lawyers. This “legal scrubbing” process was completed on 11 September 2015. The clean text has now been sent to translation in order to pave the way to the signature and ratification of the EPA by October 2016. The agreement will enter into force once ratification is completed.
On 20 June 2016, the European Council authorised, on behalf of the EU, the signature and provisional application of the EPA between the EU and the five EAC member states. It is anticipated that discussions on the ratification of the EPA will be concluded by EAC states in February 2017.
The member states of the East African Community and the European Commission initialled the text of the Agreement Establishing a Framework for an Economic Partnership Agreement jointly on 27 November 2007. The EAC member states met with the EC in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on 7-9 June 2010. Both parties were unable to agree on the contentious issues (see Joint Senior Officials Conclusions). This was followed with a Joint Statement issued by the EAC Ministers responsible for Trade and the Commissioner for Trade in the European Commission.
Civil Society Organizations working on trade, fiscal and trade-related issues in East Africa have been actively following the EPA negotiations and have offered several statements expressing their views and recommendations on the negotiations:
ESA-EU Interim Economic Partnership Agreement
The EU is currently negotiating an Economic Partnership Agreement with Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Comoros, Mauritius, Madagascar and the Seychelles as part of the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) EPA group. In August 2009, Madagascar, Mauritius, the Seychelles, and Zimbabwe signed an interim EPA with the EU, covering trade in goods. The Agreement includes the elimination of duties and quotas for imports from these countries to the EU as well as a gradual liberalisation of EU exports. It also covers rules of origin, fisheries, trade defense, development cooperation provisions, and mechanisms for settling disputes. The Agreement for the four countries has provisionally applied since 14 May 2012. Comoros signed the agreement in July 2017. It ratified and started applying it in February 2019.
The five countries already applying the agreement have declared their readiness to move beyond trade in goods, towards a more comprehensive agreement. Negotiations to deepen the EPA launched on 2 October 2019. The interim EPA also includes co-operation on technical barriers to trade, and standards on animal and plant health.
West Africa-EU Economic Partnership Agreement
After several rounds of negotiations spanned over more than 10 years, the negotiations for the West Africa-EU EPA were formally concluded on 6 February 2014 in Brussels. The Agreement was initialled on 30 June 2014 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and was fully endorsed by the ECOWAS Summit in Accra on 10 July 2014. Sixteen (16) west African states, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) have initialled the Agreement.
Following the endorsement of the negotiated deal by both parties to the Agreement, it was presented for signature and will subsequently be submitted to the European Parliament for consent and to national Parliaments of signatory states for ratification. The signature process is currently ongoing.
Pending the adoption of the regional EPA with West Africa, stepping stone Economic Partnership Agreements with Ivory Coast and Ghana entered into provisional application on 3 September 2016 and 15 December 2016, respectively.
Sustainable Investment Facilitation Agreements (SIFAs)
Pursuing sustainable investment agreements with Africa and the Southern Neighbourhood is part of the broader EU strategy to step up engagement with African countries through the “partnership of equals” approach. The goal is to unlock economic potential, foster economic diversification, and promote inclusive and sustainable growth. Such agreements are designed to further enhance sustainable trade and investment links between both continents and within Africa itself, in line with the Global Gateway. The EU is committed to boosting sustainability in its trade policy, as set out in its new trade strategy.
The new SIFAs promote sustainable investment and development in the following ways:
Commitment not to weaken environmental or labour laws and standards for the sake of attracting investment, nor to derogate from or waive those laws
Commitment to effectively implement international labour and environmental agreements, including the Paris Agreement
Promotion of corporate social responsibility and responsible business practices
Strengthening of bilateral cooperation on investment-related aspects of climate change and gender equality
The European Commission concluded negotiations with the Republic of Angola on a Sustainable Investment Facilitation Agreement (SIFA) on 18 November 2022 – the first EU agreement of this kind. The EU-Angola SIFA will make it easier to attract and expand investments while integrating environment and labour rights commitments in the EU-Angola relationship.
On 16 June 2023, the European Commission sent proposals to the Council on the signature and conclusion of the agreement. Once approval from the Council has been obtained, the EU and Angola can sign the agreement and have it sent to the European Parliament for consent. Once the approval has been obtained, the agreement may enter into force.
In Africa, EPAs support the implementation of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, launched in September 2018. They are key tools of the EU’s Comprehensive Strategy with Africa. The economic pillar of this strategy identifies trade – alongside regional and continental economic integration – as major elements to promote the sustainable development of African countries.
Towards a comprehensive Strategy with Africa
The European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy proposed the basis for a new strategy with Africa on 9 March 2020. The communication sets out proposals to intensify cooperation through partnerships in five key areas: green transition; digital transformation; sustainable growth and jobs; peace and governance; and migration and mobility. Based on this document, Europe will engage discussions with African partners towards a new joint strategy to be endorsed at the European Union – African Union Summit in October 2020.
As Europe’s closest neighbour, the African continent not only shares a rich history with EU countries, but also common values and interests. Through the Africa-EU partnership, we work, engage in political and policy dialogues, and define our cooperative relationship with Africa. The partnership was established in 2000 at the first African Union (AU)-EU Summit in Cairo. It is guided by the Joint Africa-EU strategy (JAES), adopted at the 2nd AU-EU Summit in Lisbon in 2007. At continental level, institutions, policies and initiatives have been established in areas that are of increasing importance for Africa’s development, as well as being of interest to the EU. African and European counterparts engage in formal dialogues through (i) AU-EU Summits between heads of states and governments; (ii) ministerial meetings; and (iii) European Commission to AU Commission meetings.
During the 5th AU-EU Summit held in 2017, a joint declaration ‘Investing in youth for accelerated inclusive growth and sustainable development’ emerged highlighting the intricate ways in which Africa and the EU are tied together politically and economically. Policy priority areas were also set out with a focus on youth, defining 4 joint priority areas for the following years:
- investing in people through education, science, technology and skills development
- strengthening resilience, peace, security and governance
- mobilising investments for African structural and sustainable transformation
migration and mobility
In 2018, a new Africa-Europe Alliance for sustainable investment and jobs was announced, deepening trade and economic relations, and proposing:
- a boost in strategic investment and job creation
- investment in education and skills
- strengthening the business environment and investment climate
tapping the full potential of economic integration and trade
The following factsheets relevant for Africa-EU cooperation have been prepared by the European Commission: