The EU has negotiated a series of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the 79 ACP countries. These agreements aim to create a joint partnership on trade and development, supported by development support. Bound tariffs are specific commitments made by individual WTO member governments. The linked tariff is the lowest maximum tariff for a given line of goods. When countries join the WTO or when WTO members negotiate tariff levels during trade cycles, they conclude agreements on bound tariffs and not on applied rates. For Eastern and Southern Africa, Mauritius, Seychelles, Zimbabwe and Madagascar signed an EPA in 2009. The Agreement has been provisionally applied since 14 May 2012. Several countries, such as Nigeria, still refuse to sign the EPA because they believe that these agreements are concluded to the detriment of national markets open to European competition. African members of the OACPS are also offended by the fact that the EU has negotiated EPAs with some states. The African Union (AU) is trying to create an Africa-wide free trade area.
But if different states have their own agreements with the EU, it makes things difficult. «These agreements have led to a great division and fragmentation of the African position,» Carlos Lopes, the AU`s representative for relations with Europe, said in early June. One of the pillars of political cooperation between the two blocs is human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, which both sides have committed to respect. This cooperation is governed by Article 96 of the Agreement, which allows for the suspension of aid in the event of repeated violations of human rights. The ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly is an advisory body composed equally of representatives of the EU and ACP countries. The Assembly encourages democratic processes and allows for better understanding between the peoples of the EU and those of the ACP countries. Issues related to development and the ACP-EU partnership, including economic partnership agreements, will also be addressed. However, certain provisions of the Cotonou Agreement on political cooperation have never been applied, such as Article 97, which provides for dialogue and sanctions against corrupt regimes.
«This is a weakness of the agreement,» admits a French diplomatic source. . . .