The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) is the commercial pillar of the Cotonou Agreement. The EPA reflects a shared ambition to create a new partnership between the EU and the different ACP regions, including Central Africa. This strengthened economic partnership aims to use trade to benefit development.
An Economic Partnership Agreement is being negotiated with Central Africa (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Chad).
Nevertheless, given the inherent difficulties of negotiating an agreement to cover a large number of countries, the conclusion of an interim agreement (to apply until a regional agreement can come into force) was proposed in Cameroon and accepted by this country. The main advantage of this option was that it allowed Cameroon to continue enjoying commercial preferences which it would have risked losing, in line with the rules of the World Trade Organization.
The interim EPA with Cameroon
In December 2007, Cameroon signed an interim agreement, still known as the stepping stone EPA. It was signed on 15 January 2009 and ratified by Cameroon on 22 July 2014. This agreement became effective on 4 August 2016.
The interim EPA gives Cameroon duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market, imposing upon it only an asymmetric and progressive opening of its own economy. Cameroon has excluded a certain number of agricultural or processed products from the liberalisation, and will liberalise 80 % of its imports from the EU over a 15-year period.
The agreement also stipulates commitments from the EU and its Member States to help Cameroon become more competitive, as well as measures to help exporters meet EU import standards (sanitary and phytosanitary measures). Moreover, it includes cooperation on the establishment of more effective customs procedures, and fiscal adjustment, in order to guarantee that the suppression of customs duties will not destabilize the country's public finances.