The EU will work towards a comprehensively revised agreement, based on a common basis at THE ACP level, in conjunction with three bespoke regional partnerships for Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. The overall goal of EPAs is to contribute, through trade, to sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction in ACP countries. The EU supports programmes and initiatives for several countries in the ACP COUNTRY group. In addition, there are programs to support regional economic growth and regional development for some regions of ACP countries. The Cotonou agreement focuses in particular on the private sector as an instrument of sustainable economic development. A major new programme has been set up in Cotonou to support the private sector in ACP countries through new instruments such as access to finance through the European Investment Bank (EIB). The ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly is an advisory body made up equally of representatives from the EU and ACP countries. The Assembly promotes democratic processes and facilitates a better understanding between the peoples of the EU and those of the ACP countries. Issues related to development and the ACP-EU partnership, including economic partnership agreements, will also be discussed. EPAs with sub-Saharan Africa and other EU free trade agreements with North African countries are building blocks of the Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the long-term prospect of a free trade agreement between continental countries. The EPAs already contain useful trade instruments for the construction of the AfCFTA. They provide a strong framework for regional trade and investment between THE EPA partners themselves and with the EU.
They also strengthen the commercial capacity of EU partners. The future agreement will cover priority areas such as: the EU is implementing seven economic partnership agreements with 32 partners, 14 of which are in Africa. The main objective of EPAs is the leverage of trade and investment for sustainable development. The content of the agenda will be expanded, with agreements covering new themes such as services and investment. The Cotonou agreement offers EU and ACP countries the opportunity to negotiate development-oriented free trade agreements, known as Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). EPAs are firmly rooted in the goals of sustainable development, human rights and development cooperation, which are at the heart of the Cotonou agreement. The creation of a reciprocal trade agreement puts the EU at the forefront of how to reconcile the ACP Group`s special status with the EU`s WTO commitments. The near-solution solution to this dilemma is an agreement that is reciprocal only in the way necessary to meet wto criteria. In reality, ACP countries will have some leeway and maintain limited protection of their key products.
The extent to which trade should be liberalised under the new EPAs remains a highly controversial issue and it remains to be seen whether the WTO provisions governing regional trade agreements will be revised at the end of the Doha Round in favour of the EPA system. The Cotonou agreement provides for a procedure that can be applied when one of the parties does not respect the essential elements of the partnership. These include respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law. 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.  [it needs to be updated]