Effects of rules of origin on the European Union–Africa EPAs: Cumulation of issues
It was contemplated in the agreement that the new trading arrangements would enter into force by 1 January 2008 at the latest, with the resulting liberalisation of trade occurring during a transitional period of at least 12 years. The stated objectives to be incorporated in the EPAs include, inter alia, promoting a smooth and gradual integration of ACP countries into the world economy, creating new trade dynamics, fostering investment, enhancing production, supply and trading capacities, and ensuring full conformity with relevant World Trade Organisation (WTO) provisions.2 Article 37(7) also contains a specific reference to rules of origin (RoO) and to the level of development of the ACP countries involved in the negotiations. It states:
Negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreements shall aim notably at establishing the timetable for the progressive removal of barriers to trade
between the Parties, in accordance with the relevant WTO rules. On the Community side trade liberalisation shall build on the acquis and shall aim at improving current market access for the ACP countries through, inter alia, a review of the rules of origin. Negotiations shall take account of the level of development and the socio-economic impact of trade measures on ACP countries, and their capacity to adapt and adjust their economies to the liberalisation process. Negotiations will therefore be as flexible as possible in establishing the duration of a sufficient transitional period, the final product coverage, taking into account sensitive sectors, and the degree of asymmetry in terms of timetable for tariff dismantlement, while remaining in conformity with WTO rules then prevailing.