7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Building on EPA opportunities

Building on EPA opportunities

Economic Partnerhsip Agreements in practice

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - 16:15 to 17:30

Key points

  • Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) will not come alive on their own – they need to be harnessed.
  • The volume of trade between African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries themselves is very low.
  • Although ACP exports have had preferential access to EU markets for the last 30 years, the volume of their exports has gone down.
  • Market access provided by EPAs adds value but the EU must continue to support ACP countries.
  • Many ACP countries lack the basic infrastructure to trade with each other.


This debate focused on the opportunities – and challenges – created by Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). These are trade deals that have development as their main objective. EPAs create opportunities for ACP countries to export to the European market without paying duties.

The session heard that 39 of the world’s 49 least-developed countries are ACP countries, most of them in Africa. Taken together, the EU and ACP account for 1.35 billion people, 20.1 % of the world's total landmass and €80 billion in trade, with the EU which imports €40.2 billion from the ACPs and exports €39.7 billion.

The aim of the session was partly to allow those who have benefitted directly from EPAs to give advice to would-be applicants.

The ACP-EPA countries group themselves into seven regions: five in Africa, one in the Caribbean and one in the Pacific. The oldest of the EPAs is the Caribbean region, which has been in force since 2008. The focus now is to move to full implementation of these agreements and put in place support measures.

One of the key messages was that the opportunities provided by EPAs will not be realised on their own – they need to be harnessed and exploited by the private sector, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

One speaker said that west African EPAs could help countries and companies in the region move up the global value chain. These include SMEs in Nigeria where one problem is that many firms are not well structured or ready to engage with partners abroad. One benefit of EPAs is that they can encourage SMEs to build their capacity so that, for example, they better structure their companies, write business plans and present bankable projects.

It was stressed that with its EPA, Nigeria stands a better chance of becoming an export-led, non-oil-dependent economy.

EPAs can create a more reliable and sustainable business environment and look after the interests of an investor. They can be a win-win solution for both a country and investor.

A speaker from the African private sector, whose company exports 500,000 tonnes of fruit, said access to European markets was vital to the success of his business. One example had been the recent development of organic bananas, which had been made possible by the EPA Ghana had signed with the EU.

EPAs have helped producers to up their game and raise the bar to help production reach a higher level. The trade preferences and market access provided by EPAs add value but the EU must continue to support ACP countries.

Other speakers pointed out that ACP countries need to ensure their exports comply with changing EU standards, for example, on food safety and animal welfare.

For that reason, EPAs include technical support and training, and measures to promote knowledge transfer and strengthen public services.

Examples include the EU pesticides programme for the horticulture sector, an EU fish health project and training in food safety and quality control for more than 200,000 family-run fresh fruit and vegetable businesses.


EPAs help by stimulating competition and reducing border delays but to exploit to the full the opportunities that these agreements offer, ACP countries need to take ownership of their development and design their own strategies for growth and prosperity.

Organised by

    Amanda Sunasse-Lam
    Senior Partner
    Linking African Markets and Partnership
    Salim Ismail
    Group chairman & cief, Executive officer
    Group Socota
    Jean-Marc Gravellini
    Vice-President for Africa
    Compagnie Fruitière
    Batsweletse Tagwa
    Plant General Manager
    Kromberg & Schubert Botswana (PTY) Ltd
    Shade Bembatoum-Young
    African Sustainable SME Export Trade Solutions
    Diana Acconcia
    Head of Unit, Economic Partnership Agreements
    European Commission - DG for Trade
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