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Understanding the CARIFORUM-European Union Economic Partnership Agreement

On 15 October 2008, the Caribbean became the first region among the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP)
group of countries to sign a ‘full’ Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).
Although the EPA process has generated widespread critical commentary, few analysts have stopped to
consider the motives of individual ACP countries and regions in their approach to the talks. In this paper we
consider the question of motives in relation to the CARIFORUM-EU EPA. Specifically, it asks why did
Caribbean trade negotiators feel it necessary or desirable to sign a ‘full’ EPA, containing numerous
provisions not actually mandated by the WTO, when the rest of the ACP was content to sign far less
ambitious ‘goods only’ interim agreements? In order to address this question, the paper goes beyond the
extant EU-ACP trade literature to draw insights from wider International Political Economy (IPE) scholarship,
which has analysed the actions of developing countries in relation to a whole range of ‘WTO-plus’ North-
South regional and bilateral FTAs. On this basis, the paper stands back from the complex details of the
agreement to analyse its wider significance, especially in terms the presumed trade-off between the
immediate economic benefits of improved and more secure market access against the longer-term costs of
sacrificing the regulatory autonomy, or policy space, deemed necessary to pursue the type of trade and
industrial policies deployed successfully in the past by both developed and (some) developing countries. Put
simply, the paper seeks to ascertain what ultimately the Caribbean gained from the EPA negotiations and at
what cost.


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