Answer – Pressure to ratify economic partnership agreements – E-004583/2016
The EU has granted free market access to ACP(1) countries that are not Least Developed Countries (LDCs). This is unsustainable in the absence of an instrument recognised by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). In fact, the WTO had set a deadline for this situation to end by 31 December 2007(2). Today, the situation however continues as the EU still grants free access to six non-LDC countries that have not ratified Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). In Regulation (EU) No 527/2013(3) the European Parliament and the Council recognised that it is important to end this situation and to base free access on ratification of the EPAs within a set time-frame to comply with our WTO obligations.
In view of the above and according to the Market Access Regulation (MAR)(4), EPA ratification must take place within a reasonable period of time so as not to delay its entry into force and not to prolong the MAR preferences further unduly. The Commission clearly expressed this intention when amending the MAR in 2014 to only temporarily continue free access for countries until they ratified their EPA and, consequently, end these preferences for African States that fail to ratify their EPA by 1 October 2016. This final two-year extension was still considered reasonable vis-à-vis WTO and in view of partners’ commitment to implement the EPAs at the earliest. This date does not prejudge the partners’ sovereign decision to accept or reject the EPA either before or after that date.
The Commission has consistently communicated this to its African partners ever since negotiations ended in 2014. The Commission is also committed to an effective implementation and monitoring of the EPAs so that they bring benefits to citizens and provide stable free market access for businesses in EPA countries.