Perhaps the most radical amendment introduced by the Cotonou Agreement concerns trade cooperation. Since the first Lomé Convention in 1975, the EU has not granted reciprocal trade preferences to ACP countries. However, under the Cotonou Agreement, this system has been replaced by the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), a new regime that came into force in 2008. The new regime provides for reciprocal trade agreements, which means that not only does the EU grant duty-free access to its ACP export markets, but also that ACP countries grant duty-free access to their own markets for EU exports. The deadline for signing the EPAs, December 31, 2007, was dramatic. Only the Caribbean region concluded negotiations for a full EPA before the deadline expired. A number of other countries – including Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Ghana and Côte d`Ivoire – have signed bilateral interim EPAs solely for goods to ensure continued exports. Others, such as Senegal, swore that they would not sign until “development problems” were taken seriously. Negotiations then continued to review the interim EPAs, which appeared to contain many problematic provisions; and reach regional agreements. To put pressure on the negotiations, the EU has set a new deadline: ACP countries (least developed countries) that have signed or signed EPAs (intermediates) but have not ratified these agreements or have begun to implement them before 1 January 2014 will lose their preferential access to the EU. As a result of this threat, regional EPAs were signed in West, East and South Africa in the summer of 2014. However, the European Commission has warned the three regions against withdrawing preferential market access if these regional EPAs are not ratified within two years. In the summer of 2016, the European Commission presented, on 1 October 2016, the legal instruments to deal with this threat.
All destination countries (Ghana, Côte d`Ivoire, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Kenya) visited and “ratified”. 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.