On 14 September 2012, the European Parliament voted for 1 January 2016 as the deadline for the completion of the EPA negotiation processes. However, on 21 March 2013 the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee endorsed the earlier date of 1 October 2014 as the deadline for the completion of the EPA process. This reflected the outcome of the trilateral dialogue process between the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament, established to achieve a consensus on the final date for the completion of the EPA process, in the context of divergent opinions between the Parliament on the one hand, and the Commission and Council on the other.
The position of the International Trade Committee is likely to be formally endorsed by the European Parliament meeting in plenary session in mid April 2013, with 1 October 2014 then constituting the final formal deadline for the completion of the EPA process.
The outcome of the trilateral dialogue process and its endorsement by the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee (by 22 votes in favour to 4 against, with 5 abstentions) sets the scene for an 18-month period of intense activity, during which ACP governments that have not yet concluded their interim EPA process will need to either:
a) ratify their interim EPAs; or
b) conclude the negotiation of comprehensive regional EPAs.
If any individual ACP country has not substantially completed its EPA/interim EPA ratification process by the deadline of 1 October 2014, when the interim tariff concessions granted under market access regulation no. 1528/2007 lapse, then affected ACP countries will see a reimposition of either GSP or even MFN import duties across a range of mainly agricultural commodities. For some products from some ACP countries, this would effectively close the EU market to their exports (e.g. Namibian beef product exports to the EU).