The EU-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement

The CARIFORUM-EU EPA make it easier for people and businesses from the two regions to invest in and trade with each other, and to spur development across the Caribbean. Learn how the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) with 14 Caribbean states benefits your trade.

At a glance

The CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement was signed in October 2008. It is not just a trade in goods agreement; it includes commitments on trade in services, investment, trade-related issues such as competition policy, government procurement, intellectual property rights, as well as sustainable development aspects. The agreement:

  • helps the two regions invest in and trade with each other
  • provides predictable market access for EU and Caribbean traders
  • gradually opens the EU market in services, including creative and entertainment industries, as well as the Caribbean market for EU service providers
  • ensures duty-free-quota-free market access into the EU for all products
  • EU exports of sensitive products are gradually liberalised over a period of 25 years
  • makes it possible for CARIFORUM companies to set up a commercial presence in the EU
  • provides for regional preference clause for trade within the Caribbean region, fostering regional integration and regional value chains.

The Agreement also includes a separate Protocol on Cultural Cooperation, which aims to improve the conditions governing the exchange of cultural activities, goods and services between CARIFORUM countries and the EU. The CARIFORUM-EU EPA is the first trade agreement in which the EU specifically included comprehensive provisions on culture.

Benefiting countries

Overall, 14 CARIFORUM countries are implementing the CARIFORUM –EU EPAs:

  • Dominican Republic
  • Caribbean Community states:
    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • The Bahamas
    • Barbados
    • Belize
    • Dominica
    • Grenada
    • Guyana
    • Jamaica
    • Saint Lucia
    • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
    • Saint Kitts and Nevis
    • Suriname
    • Trinidad and Tobago

Haiti has also signed the agreement in December 2009, but is not applying it yet, pending its ratification  by its parliament.

Asymmetric provisions in favour of Caribbean countries

The EPA foresees asymmetries in favour of ACP countries, such as 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 EU markets are immediately and fully opened, the CARIFORUM states have 15-25 years to open to EU imports. Moreover, producers of 17% of the most sensitive goods (mostly from HS Chapter 1-24)  will enjoy permanent protection from competition.


  • The EU grants 100% duty- and quota-free access for all goods coming from the Cariforum states. The access to the EU market is permanent, full and free to all products from CARIFORUM
  • Caribbean countries phase out duties gradually, over 15-25 years. 17% of products and services are considered sensitive and are entirely excluded from liberalisation. If imports of some EU goods into CARIFORUM countries suddenly surge and threaten local production, safeguards such as import quotas can be applied.
  • All custom duties can be found in Annexes 1,2 and 3 of the CARIFORUM – EU EPA . Note that not all Cariforum countries follow the same liberalisation schedule.
  • 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.
  •  There are special provisions on import of milk powder to the Dominican Republic - there are import quotas with preferential customs duties.

Rules of origin

In order to qualify for preferential treatment, your product will need to satisfy the rules of origin under the agreement. Please check the interactive “Rules of Origin Self Assessment tool (ROSA) in My Trade Assistant to assess whether your product fulfils the rules of origin and find out how to prepare the correct documents.

Rules of origin chapter of EPAs apply.

Product requirements

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 using My Trade Assistant. To view requirements for your product you will first have to identify its customs code. If you do not know the customs code, you can search for it with your product's name in the built-in search engine.

Health and safety requirements SPS

  • Learn about the health, safety, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards that goods have to meet in order to be imported in the European Union.
  • Search for the health, safety and SPS rules applicable to your product and its country of origin in the My Trade Assistant. To view requirements for your product you will first have to identify its customs code. If you do not know the customs code, you can search for it with your product's name with the built-in search engine.

Custom clearance documents and procedures

Proofs of origin

To qualify for preferential duty rates, products originating in EPA countries must be accompanied by a proof of origin. Proof of origin remains valid for 10 months. This can be either:

  • 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. Evidence of originating status is valid for a period of ten months from the date of issue.
  • 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.

Cumulative treatment

In case of claims of cumulation in respect of the use of materials from an EPA partner, an ACP state other than a CARIFORUM state, or an OCT, or of working or processing carried out in those countries, the evidence that you need to provide to customs authorities are:

  • for materials supplied, a movement certificate EUR.1, or a supplier’s declaration;
  • for working or processing carried out, a separate supplier’s declaration.

A separate supplier’s declaration is to be submitted on the invoice, delivery note, or other commercial document, in respect of each consignment of materials supplied, fully describing those materials.

Other documents

  • Find out about other custom clearance documents and procedures needed to import into the European Union.

Intellectual Property and Geographical Indications

  • Provisions related to copyright seek to ensure that right holders from both the EU and CARIFORUM states are adequately compensated for use of their works. Therefore, CARIFORUM right holders who wish to export copyrighted products or services to the EU should find it easier to obtain remuneration for the use of such products and services.
  • The EPA (Services Chapter) contains market access commitments by 27 EU states (except Belgium) for the exchange of entertainment services, except audio-visual. This means that CARIFORUM artists, musicians and other cultural practitioners, who are registered as a business, can send their members or employees to 27 EU states to supply entertainment services, such as performances, which are protected by copyright and related rights.
  • Negotiations on the agreement to protect geographical indications (GIs) are ongoing

Trade in Services

As the EPA is asymmetric in favour of Caribbean states, CARIFORUM opens up 65-75% of their markets focusing on sectors with greatest impact on development and where investment and technology transfer is required, while the EU opens up 90% of its services market.

The two sides are currently discussing:

  • tourism
  • the activation of the Cultural Protocol
  • setting up a Services Committee


Public Procurement


Others (competition, TSD)

The EPA helps Caribbean development through greater integration into global and regional trade and new market opportunities:

  • opening up trade in services and investment
  • making it easier to do business in the Caribbean - including rules to ensure fair competition
  • providing financial support from the EU to help:
    • governments implement the EPA businesses
    • to use the EPA to export more and attract more outside investment


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 effects.

If local industry is threatened because of import surges from Europe, EPAs allow measures to be triggered to protect industrial sectors and infant industry.

Sustainable development

The 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. EPAs 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.

Regional integration

CARIFORUM countries have been integrating more closely with each other. The EPA helps by making it easier to export goods and services between:

  • all the countries that make up CARIFORUM
  • 17 Caribbean territories with direct links to EU countries (four French 'outermost regions' and 13 overseas territories - six British, six Dutch and one French)
  • CARIFORUM states have committed to offering each other the same preferences they give the EU (not fully implemented yet)
  • Between 2014 and 2020, the EU has provided €346 million under the Regional Cooperation Program. 

Capacity-building and technical assistance

The EU is helping Caribbean governments to fulfil their commitments, in the following ways

  • Firstly, the EU is funding EPA implementation structures throughout the Caribbean. These are based in national trade ministries, and in the CARIFORUM Directorate at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat.
  • Secondly, under its EDF EU is funding the EPA implementation and Private Sector Development programs for governments and businesses since 2012. Teaming up with several Caribbean and international bodies, the EU helps Caribbean countries
    • modernise the way they raise taxes and collect statistics
    • help businesses meet EU health, safety and environmental standards
    • diversify their economies by supporting the growth of their services sector
    • Establishing agencies for competition, trade defense and safeguard measures
      Providing technical assistance in the area of IPR
  • Thirdly, the EU is investing to help governments to integrate in other ways
    • across CARICOM: by creating a Single Market and Economy (CSME)
    • in the DR and Haiti: by fostering closer cooperation between the two
    • in the Eastern Caribbean: by pursuing closer integration
  • Fourthly, the EU is also funding similar work through its country-specific programs
    • all states have EPA coordinators and structures in place
    • almost all states have implemented the progressive rounds of tariff cuts in 2011 and 2013, 2015 and 2017 as agreed in the EPA
    • work is underway to strengthen CROSQ, a regional standards body, and CAHFSA, a regional food safety agency set up in 2010.

Joint institutions

The EU has also helped to put the EPA into practice by working with Caribbean countries to set up several new, joint Caribbean-European institutions.

These bodies are intended to monitor the ways in which both regions put the agreement into practice. They are also intended to ensure the EPA delivers positive results, and to resolve any problems if they arise.

The six joint CARIFORUM-EU Institutions:

  • Joint Council
  • Trade and Development Committee (T&DC)
  • Parliamentary Committee
  • Consultative Committee
  • Special Committee on Customs Cooperation and Trade Facilitation
  • Special Committee on Agriculture.

Helping Caribbean businesses

The EU is also helping to put the EPA into practice through its partnership with Caribbean Export, a Caribbean-wide agency promoting trade and investment across the region.

The EU is funding programs to help Caribbean Export work closely with Caribbean companies, so they can make use of the EPA to develop their production and export more, both to other Caribbean countries and to the EU.

The agency also works with the EU's Outermost Regions (ORs) and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) in the Caribbean, to spur trade between them and the rest of the region.

Cultural Cooperation

The Protocol on Cultural Cooperation, establishes the framework for greater co-operation on  exchanges regarding cultural activities, and goods and services between CARIFORUM and the EU.

Useful links and documents

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