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Monitoring Economic Partnership Agreements: A methodological overview

Sanoussi Bilal, Francesco Rampa, Franziska Jerosch and Davina Makhan

European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM)

In Brief, No. 18
April 2007

SARPN acknowledges ECDPM as a source of this document:
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The African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states and the European Union (EU) countries have agreed to negotiate new WTOcompatible Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).These agreements should not be an end in themselves, but be first and foremost instruments for development, as provided for by the Cotonou Partnership Agreement. While these new free trade arrangements offer new development opportunities, they also pose considerable challenges for the ACP.To ensure that the development dimension of the EPAs is fulfilled, close monitoring will be of prime importance, of both the negotiation and the implementation of these new partnership agreements.This InBrief presents a preliminary overview of some methodological issues linked to the design of a monitoring mechanism for the EPAs.1

Why monitor the negotiation and implementation of EPAs?

As reflected in the provisions of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, the parties involved in the current Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations, namely the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the European Union (EU), have agreed that the new free trade arrangements should, first and foremost, be instruments for development. However, the prospect of EPAs has raised serious concerns about their capacity to actually deliver on development. The impact of the EPAs on poverty and poverty eradication, on ACP regional integration processes and on the unity of the ACP group have been called into question, as well as the merits of reciprocal market opening, the capacity of the ACP to negotiate and implement EPAs and the linkages and coherence of the agreements with the ongoing Doha Round at the WTO.

To ensure that the development dimension of EPAs is fulfilled, it is of prime importance to closely monitor both the negotiation and implementation of the new partnership agreements. Many actors in the ACP and EU have suggested setting up an EPA monitoring mechanism, with the aim of assessing progress in EPA negotiations and implementation relative to the goals set out in the Cotonou Partnership Agreement.2 In light of criticism that the EPAs may not be properly implemented and may actually contribute to the further economic marginalisation of ACP states, a sound and transparent monitoring process could play a role in keeping the EPAs focused on their ultimate objective (i.e. development, and not just trade). Monitoring might also help identify possible remedies should the EPAs deviate from their primary intended purposes. That said, the utility of monitoring should not lead those involved to underestimate the problems surrounding the establishment of a suitable monitoring mechanism.

This InBrief overviews and assesses some of the methodological issues associated with the design of a monitoring mechanism for the EPAs. It aims to inform and stimulate policy debate in this area and increase understanding among the parties involved in the EPA process. Since such a monitoring instrument would ideally enhance transparency and provide a basis for informed decisions, this InBrief should also assist ACP and EU stakeholders in the timely development of their own positions on the possible establishment of an instrument for EPA monitoring.3

While methodological concerns might be similar for the different countries and regions involved in EPA negotiations, no one-size-fits-all approach is likely to be found. In this respect, it is important to stress that this InBrief does not attempt to identify the precise mechanism, content and substance of an actual monitoring instrument. These details would depend on the specific goals and priorities pursued through the EPA concerned and would thus be expected to differ substantially between countries and regions, depending on their particular development strategies and negotiating positions.

Methodological challenges for the design of instruments for monitoring the preparation, negotiation and implementation of EPAs fall into two categories: (i) what to monitor and (ii) how to monitor. The former relates to what specific objectives are to be monitored and in what order of priority. The latter addresses what is a suitable approach for analysing and assessing EPAs, with respect to quantitative or qualitative assessment, objectivity, appropriate information (or lack thereof) and consultation and participation. Complementary issues include who should conduct the monitoring exercise and how its results should feed back into negotiation and implementation processes.

Irrespective of the design adopted, a monitoring mechanism should not only pay attention to the substance of an EPA (i.e. its impact), but also assess the process (i.e. its negotiation, EPA-induced reforms, adjustments, ownership, participation and consultation). The idea is, through monitoring, to improve ownership and transparency of the EPA process as a whole.

  1. This InBrief was made possible by a financial contribution from the Deutsche Gesellschaft fСЊr Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ). It is based on a more extensive study: Bilal, S. & Rampa, F. (2006) Designing a Monitoring Instrument for Economic Partnership Agreements: Methodological Issues. (December). The authors are grateful to Kathleen Van Hove for her valuable comments and editorial guidance.
  2. ACP Council of Ministers (2005) Resolution of the 81st Session of the ACP Council of Ministers Held in Brussels, 21 and 22 June. Brussels: ACP Secretariat.; Council of the European Union (2005) General Affairs and External Relations, Brussels 21 and 22 November. 14172/05 (Presse 289).; and Economic Partnership Agreements: Putting a Rigorous Priority on Development. Speech by EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson to the Civil Society Dialogue Group. Brussels, 20 January 2005.
  3. The European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) and the German Development Institute (DIE) are currently conducting a joint project to identify pragmatic options for a monitoring framework for EPA implementation, in consultation with a broad range of concerned actors. Comments and suggestions are welcome (

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