Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are trade agreements between the EU and 76 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, almost all of which are former European colonies. The main objectives of the EPAs are to stimulate social, economic and political development and sustainable growth through trade. They also aim to support the regional integration of ACP countries and their integration into the global economy.
The EU EPA was signed between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). Trade with ACP countries represents more than 5% of EU imports and exports. The EU is a major trading partner for ACP countries. The EU is the main destination for agricultural and transformed goods from ACP partners, but commodities (e.g., oil) still form a large part of ACP-EU trade. The EPAs intend to support trade diversification by shifting ACP countries’ reliance on commodities to higher-value products and services.
This agreement provides a framework for cooperation among economies, where a stronger economy can stimulate the economic growth of a weaker economy; this, in turn, will also provide benefits for the stronger economy. In general, the EPA aims to promote ACP-EU trade and ultimately contribute, through trade and investment, to sustainable development and poverty reduction.
The CARIFORUM-EC Consultative Committee is a mechanism for civil society engagement, comprising representatives from organisations across CARIFORUM and the EU. The Consultative Committee fosters social and civil dialogue through consultation on all aspects of social, economic, environmental and development issues as they arise in the context of implementing the CARIFORUM-EU-EPA. According to the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), the scope of the Committee involves “discussion and eventually adoption of the Rules of Procedure; discussion and adoption of work programme; information from the EU and/or CARIFORUM officials on the state of implementation of the agreement; general discussion on social, environmental and economic impact of the agreement”. The Committee has an advisory/advocacy type capacity and does not make decisions, and is viewed by civil society as an important mechanism for their input into the EPA process.
The CARIFORUM-EU Joint Consultative Committee is tasked with assisting the CARIFORUM-EU Joint Council in promoting dialogue and cooperation between representatives of civil society organisations. The CARIFORUM-EU Joint Council identified the role of the CARIFORUM-EU Consultative Committee as (1) monitoring the implementation of all economic, social and environmental aspects of the Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU, its Member States and the CARIFORUM States and; (2) strengthening dialogue between representatives of civil society.
The Committee comprises 40 standing representatives, 25 from CARIFORUM and 15 from the European Union, representing the following sectors: (a) employer’s organisations, (b) trade unions, (c) other economic, social actors and non-governmental actors, including development and environmental organisations, and (d) the academic community. Participation in the CARIFORUM-EC Consultative Committee is decided by the Joint CARIFORUM-EC Council.
The CPDC is currently the Secretariat of the CARIFORUM-EU Consultative Committee and has served as the Chair on two occasions. The CPDC’s desire to develop an engagement framework for the EPA is motivated by the CPDC’s larger programmatic agenda that focuses on promoting civil society engagement.
- Strengthened capacity of CARIFORUM civil society organisations to contribute to policy dialogue and advocacy.
- Enhanced framework for participation in the implementation and monitoring of the EPA.
- Enhanced financial, logistical, research and secretariat support services provided to the CARIFORUM EPA Consultative Committee.
- Enhanced secretariat support provided to a re-established and operationalised regional policy advocacy network.