Free trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement provide for duty-free trade in goods and services between nations and the removal of other trade barriers. Economic partnership agreements contain the same provisions as a free trade agreement, but go beyond free trade agreements. In addition to free trade, the EPAs provide for the free movement of people and include provisions relating to public procurement, international competition and cooperation, customs procedures and international dispute resolution. Opponents of economic partnership agreements argue that agreements can benefit more developed countries than their less developed partners. Stronger economies may be more likely to exploit their weaker partners, leading to unequal benefits. In the view odi.org, economic partnership agreements must provide for reciprocity in order to be taken into account under World Trade Organization rules. This means that any action taken in favour of a given economy must be replicated by that economy, which in theory brings equal benefits for each country. The entry into force of an agreement is a long process: it requires signature, ratification and implementation and can sometimes take years. Therefore, in order to avoid trade disruptions until the EPAs come into force, on 20 December 2007, the EU adopted a Market Access Regulation (MAR 1528/2007) to temporarily apply EU EPA preferences from 1 January 2008 to countries that have concluded such an agreement but are not yet required to sign, ratify and implement their agreements.
Subsequently, in May 2013, the EU decided, through EU Regulation 527/2013, to amend the MAR to exclude from 1 October 2014 countries that did not take the necessary steps to ratify the 2007 EPA. That is why these countries had to do so or conclude a new (regional) EPA to be reinstated under MAR 1528/2007. For those who did not do so before 1 October 2014, they will be automatically covered by the Generalised Preference System (GSP) after that date, a differentiated preferential trading system that the EU unilaterally grants to all developing countries. Under the “Everything but Arms” (EBA) initiative, least developed countries (LDCs) can trade under the EU GSP, which allows all exports, with the exception of arms, to access the UNION market from LDCs duty-free. Non-LDCs have a less favourable GSP regime. In addition, following the new EU GSP, which came into force on 1 January 2014, all middle-income countries will no longer have trade preferences on the EU market from 2016. The Economic Partnership Agreements are a system for creating a free trade area between the European Union and the Group of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP). This is a response to persistent criticism that the EU`s proposed non-reciprocal and discriminatory preferential trade agreements are incompatible with WTO rules. The EPAs date back to the signing of the Cotonou Agreement. EPAs with different regions are in different playing conditions.
In 2016, the EPAs were to be signed with three regional economic communities in Africa (East African Community, Economic Community of West African States and Southern African Development Community), but these faced challenges.  [Need for Update] In Africa, EPAs support the implementation of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, launched in September 2018. These are key instruments of the EU`s overall strategy with Africa. The economic pillar of this strategy sees trade – in addition to regional and continental economic integration – as an important element in promoting the sustainable development of African countries. Economic Partnership Agreements: Where are we and what are the development challenges? In this context, a first WTO waiver was granted to the EU in 1996, which expired in 2000. An application for an extension of this exemption was made in 2001, parallel to the