This is why the EPAs provide for special regimes for this specific group. Unlike other ACP countries, the group of least developed countries is called upon to reject the EPAs and continue trade relations under the Everything But Arms (EBA) Regulation. This amendment to the EC`s Generalised System of Preferences, launched by the Council of Ministers in 2001, has since regulated trade relations between the EU and the least developed countries that have opted for this possibility and gives duty-free access to all products from the least developed countries without quantitative restrictions, with the exception of weapons and ammunition. This provision, while facilitating the situation of least developed countries under the new trade regime, has also been criticised because the EBA initiative prevents least developed countries from opening their markets to EU products under an EPA. Another weakness of the EBA`s initiative is that it uses the GSP rules of origin, which require a two-stage transformation for textiles and clothing. In contrast, the EPA rules of origin allow for a single-step transformation for exports from these sectors. This is one of the reasons why Mozambique and Lesotho (both LDCs) initialled the EU`s interim EPA in November 2007 and signed the agreement in July 2009. Angola (the other LDC in the SADC EPA configuration) has decided to continue trade under the EBA, given that its main exports to the EU are oil and diamonds, which are duty-free and quota-free as originating products “fully obtained” in accordance with EBA rules of origin. The creation of a reciprocal trade agreement poses the EU the problem of how to reconcile the special status of the ACP group with the EU`s WTO obligations. The proposed solution to this dilemma is an agreement that is reciprocal only to the extent necessary to meet WTO criteria.
In reality, the ACP countries will have some room for manoeuvre and will be able to maintain limited protection for their main products. The extent to which trade should be liberalised under the new EPAs remains widely debated 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 allows EU and ACP countries to negotiate development-oriented free trade agreements, known as EPAs. The EPAs are firmly anchored in the objectives of sustainable development, human rights and development cooperation, which are at the heart of the Cotonou Agreement. The agreements provide a framework for cooperation and not competition between geographically distant economies. An agreement between a stronger economy and a weaker economy should stimulate the economic development of the weaker nation, while bringing real benefits to the strongest. They aim to maintain peace among nations in different parts of the world and raise the standard of living of families in less developed countries. .