What are the Economic Partnership Agreements?

The EU's economic partnership agreements are:

  • Trade and development arrangements between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries - designed to facilitate the ACPs' integration into the world economy through gradual trade liberalisation and improved trade-related cooperation.
  • Tailored to suit specific regional circumstances and promote sustainable growth and poverty reduction through trade (including helping ACPs implement the agreements)
  • Set within the framework of the EU-ACP Partnership Agreement (known as the Cotonou agreement) that governs relations between the EU and the ACP countries. Under the EPAs, EU markets are immediately and fully opened, while the ACPs have 15 years to open to EU imports (with protection for sensitive imports) and even up to 25 years in exceptional cases.


Rules of Origin

The EPA rules of origin are described for the following agreements:

1. The EPA Cariforum: Its member countries are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and the 28 Member States of the European Union.1

2. The EPA East and Southern Africa: Its member countries are Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zimbabwe and the 28 Member States of the European Union.

3. The EPA Pacific: Its member countries are Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Samoa and the 28 Member States of the European Union.

4. The SADC EPA: Its member countries are Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Eswatini (former Swaziland), Namibia, South Africa and the 28 Member States of the European Union.


Tolerances included in the EPAs 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 will apply (cf. Annex 1)

See also: General rule of Tolerance or De Minimis


EPAs general provisions include the following types of cumulation:

  • Bilateral cumulation with the EU;
  • diagonal and full cumulation with OCTs and ACP countries. There may be differences in the provisions applicable in the different EPAs. Please check the relevant provisions for each EPA. In most of the implemented EPAs, Cumulation with all the ACP countries (as defined in each EPA) will apply only if:
    • the countries involved in the acquisition of the originating status have concluded agreements of administrative cooperation;
    • the inputs and the final products have acquire originating status by application of the same rules of origin as the ones included in the EPA.
  • Cumulation with neighbouring developing countries: Materials originating in a neighbouring developing country (belonging to a coherent geographical entity) other than an ACP State may be considered as materials originating in the EPA States when incorporated into a product obtained there. Please note that:
    • The list of what is considered as a neighbouring country is annexed in each Protocol.
    • For this type of cumulation to apply, it has to be requested by the EPA countries.
    • In this case, the Rules of Origin applicable to the inputs coming from the neighbouring countries is defined in each EPA.

For the SADC EPA that is provisionally applied since 16/9/2016 (tbc), there are two other types of cumulation that replace the provisions relating to cumulation with neighbouring developing countries, as follows:

  • Cumulation with respect to materials which are subject to MFN duty free treatment in the European Union, and
  • Cumulation with respect to materials originating in other countries benefiting from preferential duty free – quota free access to the European Union

In practice, the above allows SADC EPA countries for cumulation of origin for all materials that can be imported into the EU at zero duty (be it in the framework of a preferential arrangement with the EU - including GSP- or on an MFN basis). Thus, to the already known concept of cumulation (bilateral, diagonal and full), which is granted to the EPA signatory countries, a "global cumulation" for zero-duty materials irrespective of their origin is established.

See also: General rule of Cumulation

Direct transport

Evidence of the direct transport will have to be brought to the customs authorities of the importing country.

Direct transport between an Eastern and Southern African State (ESA) and the EU or through the territory of the other countries mentioned in the Articles on cumulation is applicable. Originating products may be transported by pipeline across territory other than that of an ESA State or the EU.

Direct transport between a Pacific State and the EU or through the territory of the other countries mentioned in the Articles on cumulation is applicable. The same principle applies to transport of goods between Cariforum States and the EU.

For SADC EPA and for ESA EPA, the stricter conditions of the "direct transport" provision are replaced by the "non-alteration" rule. The non-alteration rule allows for transhipment, storage and splitting of consignments in the territory of third countries of transit.

See also: Basic rules of Rules of Origin

Duty drawback

It means that refund may be claimed for duty paid on materials which were previously imported for further processing and then exported to a country which has signed an Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU or to the EU.

See also: General rule of Duty drawback

Vessels conditions

Fish caught in high seas and in the Exclusive Economic Zones of EPA countries can be considered as originating in an EPA country solely when it is caught by vessels which fulfil certain criteria. These criteria refer to the place of registration of a vessel, to the flag under which they "sail" and also to their ownership.

Please note that, under EPA Rules of Origin, there is no specific requirement on the nationality of the crew, masters or officers. These requirements have been removed as compared to the previously applied Cotonou Agreement to facilitate the conferring of origin to fish caught by EPA countries.

Due to provisions on cumulation, these conditions can be fulfilled by different EPA States.

Product Specific Rules of Origin

Product Specific Rules are included in Annex II of each Protocol. Nevertheless, for some EPAs, some more relaxed rules are included in an Annex 2A.

Specific Provision applicable to some fishery product under Pacific EPA with includes, in the Article 6 paragraph 6, a more relaxed rule applicable to processed fishery products of Headings 1604 and 1605


At the request of an EPA country, a specific derogation could be granted, under specific conditions, in order to allow more relaxed Rules of Origin to apply for specific products originating in specific countries. Further to these provisions, derogations to the specific rule of a product have been granted under the Cariforum EPA to Dominican Republic (see Cariforum EPA for specific rule for garments), and the ESA EPA countries and the Pacific EPA (see ESA EPA for specific rule for canned tuna) and the SADC EPA countries (see for Namibia a specific rule for Albacore tuna and for Mozambique as specific rule for shrimps, prawns and lobster.  

Check the product specific rules of origin for your product at search form

[1] Haiti signed the Caribbean EPA but has not ratified it yet.


Proofs of Origin for EPAs

To qualify for preferential duty rates, products originating in EPA countries must be accompanied by a proof of origin. 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 fulfilL the other requirements of the Rules of Origin Protocol.
  • an invoice declaration – issued by any exporter, for consignments valued €6 000 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.

To become an approved exporter, you must be able to satisfy your customs authorities that you are able to prove the originating status of your products, as well as any other requirements they may impose.

The customs authorities can withdraw your approved exporter status if you abuse it in any way. To find out more about the procedures, contact your customs authorities.

Proof of origin remains valid for 10 months

NB: in the specific context of cumulation, proof of origin of the materials imported from other ACP countries, from the EU or from OCTs are established by a movement certificate EUR1 (diagonal cumulation) or by a supplier declaration (diagonal and full cumulation) as explained in the Article on information procedure for cumulation purposes.