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Multilateral Trade Agreements

Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)

The African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states benefited from non-reciprocal access to the European Union (EU) market under the Cotonou Agreement (CA) until 2007. However, as this arrangement has violated the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the grounds that it discriminated against other developing countries in Asia and Latin America, reciprocal WTO-compatible trading arrangements needed to be negotiated between the ACP and EU, progressively removing barriers to trade and enhancing cooperation in all areas related to trade. These new arrangements are what is referred to as Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).  One of the objectives of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) is to ensure that the new trading arrangements are compatible with the WTO rules, in particular, article xxiv of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

Formal EPA negotiations between the ACP states and the European Commission (EC) at the all-ACP level started in 2002 but the Pacific ACP States (PACPs) launched their negotiations with the EC in September 2004. Of the 78 ACP countries, 35 initialed agreements by the end of 2007, of which 15 Caribbean countries concluded a full EPA while the rest initialed interim EPAs with a provision to continue negotiating full EPAs. Those countries that initiated EPA agreements were given Duty-Free and Quota-Free (DFQF) market access into the EU market with effect from 1st January 2008.

The EU has also offered better rules of origin to Fiji and PNG in the context of IEPA. The most important change in the rules of origin is the one on global sourcing or change in tariff heading. Regardless of where the fish is caught or the status of a vessel’s flag, registration or ownership, the fish is deemed originating as long as it is transformed from being fresh or frozen into being a pre-cooked, packaged or canned product. This provision has the potential to attract investment in the fisheries sector in Fiji and assist it to get the maximum returns from its fisheries resources.