After 12 years of hard talks, the EPAs finally concluded with ECOWAS and SADC this year were made possible, largely due to the strong political leadership shown on all sides in order to ensure the smooth trade relationship with the EU and to maintain regional unity and solidarity.
In terms of product coverage, ECOWAS will liberalise 75% of its tariff lines, based on its common external tariff, over a period of 20 years while the SADC EPA group is expected to liberalise 80% of its trade with the EU.
ECOWAS and SADC countries maintain some policy space to protect their domestic economies in case imports from the EU threaten to cause injury to their domestic industries and both EPAs contain flexibility for countries to apply export taxes in exceptional circumstances in case of specific revenue needs.
EPAs must now be placed in a broader perspective, notably in the larger strategic EU-Africa relationship. This means that both the EU and the regions that have concluded EPAs will now have to mainstream EPAs in their own economic dynamics. A trade agreement in itself is just the starter.