Trade relations between the European Union (EU) and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) were facilitated by the Lomé Convention. The first Lomé Convention was signed in 1975 (with the participation of 46 ACP countries), Lomé II in 1979 (58 ACP countries), Lomé III in 1984 (65 ACP countries) and Lomé IV in 1989 (68 ACP countries, extended in 1995 to 70 ACP countries).
In 2000, the European Union and 78 ACP countries, including 15 Caribbean nations, signed the Cotonou Agreement. CARICOM's relations with the EU are governed by this agreement. The Cotonou Agreement lasts for twenty years and contains a clause allowing its revision every five years. All CARICOM members with the exception of Montserrat have signed and ratified the Cotonou Agreement. The non-reciprocal Lomé IV trade preferences will continue to be applied during an interim period (2000-2007). Article 37 of the Cotonou Agreement also provided for the negotiation of economic partnership agreements (EPAs). The EPAs will replace chapters on trade in the Cotonou Agreement.
In September 2002, EU and ACP countries launched the negotiations for EPAs. The objective of the EPAs is to move beyond a relationship based on non-reciprocal preferential access and secure the integration of ACP countries to the global economy. The EPA negotiations pursue four objectives: partnership entailing rights and obligations on both sides, economic development of parties (with emphasis on flexibility and gradual implementation of commitments), harmony with regional integration initiatives, and gradual integration into the global economy.
The Caribbean-EU EPA negotiations were opened on 16 April 2004 in Kingston, Jamaica. The negotiations were organized in four stages: (i) the first phase would focus on measures to accelerate CARIFORUM integration and establish guidelines for an EPA to be implemented no later than January 1, 2008; (ii) the second phase would focus on meetings of technical negotiating groups; (iii) the third phase would serve to consolidate the discussions and points of common understanding into a draft EPA agreement; and (iv) the final phase would be the finalization of the agreement. The second phase was launched in Barbados on 12 November 2004. On 30 November 2006, in the framework of the third EPA Ministerial in Brussels, the EU Trade Commissioner and the Caribbean Ministers concluded Phase III of the negotiations while providing guidance to conclude the negotiations as agreed in the joint Plan and Schedule for CARIFORUM-EC Negotiations of an Economic Partnership Agreement. CARIFORUM Heads of State and EU Commissioners for Trade and Development met in Montego Bay, Jamaica for a special meeting from 4-5 October 2007. The parties initialled the full EPA in Barbados on 16 December 2007, and the final text was later made available on 22 February 2008.
The European Union and 14 countries of the Caribbean region signed the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)
in October 2008 aiming at strengtening existing relation between the Parties and promoting regional integration between the Parties and in the CARIFORUM region. Guyana signed the CARIFORUM-EU EPA on 20 October 2008.
On 10 December 2009, Haiti signed the CARIFORUM-EU
Economic Partnership Agreement.