The Commission has negotiated Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with West Africa (Economic Community of West African States — Ecowas‐ and Mauritania) and with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) EPA Group, which includes South Africa.
These EPAs are free trade agreements with an overarching sustainable-development objective. As such, the different levels of development of the EU and its partner countries are fully taken into account, notably in the tariff-liberalisation schedules and development cooperation available to the partner countries.
The Commission has been fully transparent about the EPAs, providing the text and context of the agreements on its website(1). The ‘SADC EPA’ is already provisionally applied but the West African EPA is not.
The EPAs liberalise imports of products originating in EPA partner countries. These imports include inputs that EU manufacturers need. Manufactures are under-represented in African exports and often do not compete with EU manufacture. However, all EPAs contain a ‘safeguard’ mechanism that the EU can invoke should imports from the EPA partners threaten EU production, under conditions clearly defined in the agreements.
The Commission has never established a link between EPA signature and the availability of EU development aid (i.e. no conditionality). At the same time the EU has committed itself to assisting its EPA partners in implementing their agreements.