EPA - West Africa
The EU-West Africa EPA makes it easier for people and businesses from the two regions to invest in and trade with each other, and to spur development across West Africa. Learn how the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) with 16 West African states can benefit your trade.
The EU-West Africa EPA is not yet applied in any of the West African countries - it will enter into provisional application once all West African countries have signed and two thirds of West African countries have ratified the Agreement.
At a glance
The EU has initiated an Economic Partnership Agreement with 16 West African states; the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). Nigeria is the only country in the region that has is yet to sign the EPA, which is why the agreement is not yet applied.
The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with West Africa covers goods and development cooperation. The EPA also includes the possibility to hold further negotiations on sustainable development, services, investment and other trade-related issues in the future.
The EPA will:
- help West Africa to integrate better into the global trading system and will support investment and economic growth in the region.
- increase West African exports to the EU
- stimulate investment and contribute to developing productive capacity, with a positive effect on employment.
Until the adoption of the full regional EPA with West Africa, 'stepping stone' Economic Partnership Agreements with Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana entered into provisional application on 3 September 2016 and 15 December 2016 respectively.
Asymmetric provisions in favour of West African countries
The EPA weighs in West Africa's favour and takes account of the current differences in the level of development between the two regions. Asymmetries provisions in favour of West African countries include the exclusion of sensitive products from liberalisation, long liberalisation periods, flexible rules of origin, and special safeguards and measures for agriculture, food security and infant industry protection.
- While the EU opens its market completely from day one, West Africa will remove import tariffs only partially over a 20-year transition period. Moreover, producers of 25% of the most sensitive goods will enjoy permanent protection from competition.
- Except arms and ammunition, the EU grants 100% duty-free and quota-free access to all imports coming from Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, under the interim EPA. The same will apply to all West African products, from the first day of entry into application of the regional West Africa EPA. Access to the EU market is permanent, full and free to all products.
- West African countries will liberalise imports coming from the EU over a period of 20 years. According to the categories already set out in the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET)
- group A goods (essential social goods, basic necessities, basic commodities, capital goods and specific inputs), currently having 0 or 5% duties, will be liberalised 5 years after the application of the EPA
- group B goods (mainly inputs and intermediate goods), currently having 0, 5 or 10% duties, will be liberalised within 10-15 years after the application of the EPA
- group C goods (some final consumption goods), currently having 5, 10 or 20% duties, will be liberalised within 10-20 years after the application of the EPA.
- A significant portion of tariff lines (25%) will be entirely excluded from liberalisation and remain subject to normal duty. These include sensitive products such as agriculture/fishery products and sensitive final consumption goods.
- If imports of some EU goods into West African countries suddenly surge thus jeopardising local markets, safeguards such as import quotas and duties can be deployed.
Use the search option of My Trade Assistant to find the exact information on duties and tariffs for your specific product, taking into consideration its country of origin and destination. If in doubt, contact your customs authorities.
Rules of origin
Flexible rules of origin enable EPA West Africa countries to export products with inputs from other countries, especially in key sectors - agriculture, fisheries and textiles and clothing. For example, a textile product can enter the EU duty-free if at least one stage in its production – such as weaving or knitting – took place in an EPA country.
Before you export/import, make sure that you:
- Check the rules of origin applying to your specific product in the My Trade Assistant search form
- Consult your customs authorities.
Tolerances included in the West Africa EPA are more lenient than the usual ones. They mount to 15% in ex-work price of the final product, instead of 10% foreseen in most of the EU's agreements. For textile and clothing, specific tolerances apply.
- Bilateral cumulation with the EU
- Diagonal and Full cumulation with OCTs and ACP countries, under certain conditions.
- Cumulation with neighboring developing countries, under certain conditions.
Evidence of direct transport must be brought to the customs authorities of the importing country.
Refund may be claimed for duty paid on materials, which were previously imported for further processing and then exported to a country that has signed an EPA with the EU.
Fish caught in high seas and in the Exclusive Economic Zones of West Africa EPA countries can be considered as originating in an EPA country solely when it is caught by vessels that fulfil certain criteria. These criteria refer to the place of registration of a vessel, to the flag under which they "sail," and to their ownership.
There is no specific requirement on the nationality of the crew, masters or officers. These requirements, which were in the original Cotonou Agreement, have now been removed to facilitate the conferring of origin to fish caught by EPA countries.
Product specific rules of origin
Use the search option of My Trade Assistant to find the rules applicable to your specific product.
At the request of an EPA country, a derogation could be granted, under specific conditions, in order to allow more relaxed rules of origin to apply for certain products originating in specific countries.
Technical rules and requirements
- Learn about the technical requirements, rules and procedures that goods have to meet in order to be imported in the European Union.
- Search for the specific rules and regulations applicable to your product and its country of origin in the My Trade Assistant database.
Health and safety requirements SPS
- Learn about the general health, safety, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards that goods have to meet in order to be imported into the European Union.
- Search for the specific health, safety and SPS rules applicable to your product and its country of origin in the My Trade Assistant database.
Custom clearance documents and procedures
Proofs of origin
- To become an approved exporter, you must be able to prove to your customs authorities the originating status of your products, as well as any other requirements they may impose.
The customs authorities can withdraw your approved exporter status in case of misuse. To find out more about the procedures, contact your customs authorities.
- To qualify for preferential duty rates, products originating in West Africa EPA countries must be accompanied by a proof of origin. Proof of origin remains valid for 10 months. This can be either:
- a Movement Certificate EUR.1 - issued by the customs authorities of the exporting country. The exporter (or authorised representative) applying for a certificate must be prepared to submit documents proving the originating status of the products concerned on request and fulfil the other requirements of the rules of origin Protocol.
- an invoice declaration – issued by any exporter, for consignments valued 6,000 EUR or less, or by approved exporters, for consignments of any value. When filling in an invoice declaration, you should be prepared to submit documents proving the originating status of your products and fulfil the other requirements of the Protocol on rules of origin.
- Find out about other custom clearance documents and procedures[link] needed to import into the European Union.
Intellectual Property and Geographical Indications
- Find specific information about the EU legislation for IP and GI, as well as EU IPR policy towards least developed and developing countries
- Find general information about Intellectual Property and Geographical Indications
Trade in Services
- Find specific information on the EU market for Services
- Find general information about the rules, regulations and facilities governing trade in services
- Find specific information on the EU market of public procurement
- Find general information about public procurement legislation, rules and access to different markets
- Find specific information about investments from abroad into the EU
- Find general information to enable your investment abroad
- Since 2014, the EU has stopped export subsidies on all products exported to EPA countries.
- The EU has minimised measures with production and trade- distorting
- If local industry is threatened because of import surges from Europe, EPAs allow measures to be triggered to protect industrial sectors and infant industry.
The West Africa EPA is explicitly based on the "essential and fundamental" elements set out in the Cotonou Agreement, i.e. human rights, democratic principles, the rule of law, and good governance. The agreement thus contain some of the strongest language on rights and sustainable development available in EU agreements.
- The "non-execution clause" means that “appropriate measures” (as set out under the Cotonou Agreement) can be taken if any party fails to fulfil its obligations in respect of the essential elements. This may include the suspension of trade benefits.
- The joint EPA institutions are tasked with the function of monitoring and assessing the impact of the implementation of EPAs on the sustainable development of the Parties. In keeping with the Cotonou Agreement, there is a clear role for civil society and members of parliament.
The West Africa EPA is as much about trade between the West African countries as it is about trade with the EU. It is the first Economic Partnership that brings together not only the 16 countries of the region but also their two regional organisations: the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA).
- The West African market access offer to the EU is fully aligned with the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET), which lays the basis for an ECOWAS customs union. The implementation of the EPA and the ECOWAS CET are going hand in hand and mutually reinforce each other.
- The EPA includes important provisions to make customs procedures easier and more efficient and foresees that West African countries will grant each other at least the same treatment as they are granting the EU.
Capacity-building and technical assistance
The EU provides Aid for Trade technical assistance. This helps countries to adapt their customs procedures and reduce paperwork. For you, this means less hassle when dealing with customs.
For e.g., the EU provides financial and technical support to help West African farmers meet the EU’s sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards. EU also often sends a team of experts from the Health and Food Audits and Analysis Directorate to give recommendations on how to solve export problems.
Useful links and documents
- Learn more about EU trade relations with West Africa
- See the full Text of the EU – West Africa EPA
- Text of the stepping stone EPA with Côte d'Ivoire
- Text of the stepping stone EPA with Ghana
- Technical factsheet on liberalization in the West Africa – EU EPA
- Everything you need to know for your specific exports/imports from/to the EU - My Trade Assistant