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Economic Partnership Agreements and Food Security

Alan Matthews, Department of Economics and Institute for International Integration Studies


There has been much debate about the possible negative effects of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) for food security in ACP signatories. This paper investigates whether the commitments undertaken by ACP governments when they signed EPAs are a threat to food security. Analysis of the tariff liberalisation schedules suggests that ACP states have made use of their flexibility to exempt many food staples from liberalisation. However, the EPA provisions on other border measures are more problematic. Although EPAs were intended to create a WTOcompatible system of trade preferences between the EU and ACP states, all of the EPAs require ACP signatories to make commitments which go beyond WTO disciplines. From a food security perspective, these commitments concern tariff standstill provisions, the ban on export restrictions and export taxes, limits on the size of the remedies available under the bilateral safeguard clause, and the failure to prohibit the use of export subsidies by the EU partner. The paper recommends that disciplines which potentially might limit the policy measures which ACP governments could take to improve food security, and which go beyond WTO-compatible provisions, should be removed either through renegotiating the existing interim agreements or when establishing full EPAs. However, it also warns that an excessive focus on trade policy has distracted attention from the more important question of the domestic initiatives that ACP governments take to ensure that agriculture can play its role as an engine of growth and poverty reduction. The potential of EPAs to improve food security can only be realised by a focus on greater agricultural investment and improved institutions.

Keywords: Economic Partnership Agreements, ACP, EU, trade, food security
JEL: F13, O13


Last updated 28 August 2014 by IIIS (Email).