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African countries will lose preferential treatment if no further progress is made on EPA ratification

The Commission has decided to withdraw the Market Access Regulation for the countries that have not taken the necessary steps towards ratifying the Economic Partnership Agreements. If by 1st October 2016 these countries have not signed and ratified the EPA, the Commission will issue a delegated act to withdraw them from the list of beneficiary countries. Member States and MEPs could decide to object this decision. An objection from either would prevent the act from entering into force.

EPA negotiations with West Africa and the East African Community are concluded but the countries have not signed and ratified the agreement. The EPA with the South African Development Community was recently signed but must be ratified. On 1st October, the Commission might take the decision to withdraw the preferential trade access to several African countries. However, as low-income or lower middle income countries, most of them could still benefit from the General System of Preferences regime (GSP) – which is less advantageous than the market access regulation. Since Botswana and Namibia are upper middle-income countries they would not qualify for preferential access under the Generalised System of Preferences.

The market access regulation governs the EU import regime for several African countries. The regulation is a bridging solution for the countries which had negotiated Economic Partnership Agreements but not yet signed and ratified them. The regulation was conceived as a temporary solution and not a permanent facility. It provides duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market for all products except arms (the regulation is similar to the Everything But Arms status).

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