The agreements are intended to enhance regional integration and economic development in the African, Caribbean and Pacific ACP countries. They are based on the principle of unbalanced market opening, meaning that they provide a better access to the EU market for ACP partners.
The Council of the European Union has authorized the signature and provisional application of the economic partnership agreements (EPA) between the European Union and the East African Community (EAC). The community comprises Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are legally binding bilateral contracts between the European Union and individual African countries. Once signed, EPAs warrant that within a decade, about 80 percent markets in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, should open to European goods and services.
The authorization follows the conclusion of negotiations for a region-to-region comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Member countries of the Eastern African Community and the European Union. The negotiations were finalized on October 16, 2014.
They notably offer unprecedented market opportunities for agricultural and fisheries products – aiming mainly to reinforce cooperation on the sustainable use of resources. The European Union is optimistic that the arrangement will enhance regional integration and economic development in the member countries.
It is expected to be signed and ratified by October 2016.
Following its ratification, EAC countries will enjoy duty-free quota-free access to the EU market for all EAC exports and gradually, the EAC will be opened to imports from the EU.
For the past three decades, ACP countries have had preferential access to European markets through the Lomé and Cotonou agreements.
But with the coming into force of the EPAs, there will be reciprocal, two way trade preferences creating free trade between EU and ACP countries, with no duties or quotas on substantially all trade between the regions.