Opponents of economic partnership agreements argue that agreements can benefit more developed countries than their less developed partners. Stronger economies may be more likely to exploit their weaker partners, leading to unequal benefits. In the view odi.org, economic partnership agreements must provide for reciprocity in order to be taken into account under World Trade Organization rules. This means that any action taken in favour of a given economy must be replicated by that economy, which in theory brings equal benefits for each country. Trade unions and environmentalists in rich countries have been the most active in seeking labour and environmental standards. The danger is that the application of such standards could simply be an excuse for protectionist protectionism in rich countries, which would harm workers in poor countries. In fact, people in poor, capitalist or working-class countries were extremely hostile to the imposition of such standards. For example, the 1999 WTO meeting in Seattle was partially unsuccessful because developing countries opposed the Clinton administration`s attempt to include labour standards in multilateral agreements. In 1995, GATT became the World Trade Organization (WTO), which now has more than 140 member states. The WTO controls four international trade agreements: the GATT, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights and Trade Investment Agreement (TRIPS and TRIMS).
The WTO is now the forum for members to negotiate the removal of trade barriers; The most recent forum is the Doha Development Round, launched in 2001. 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. Because of the WTO`s persistent incompatibility with previous agreements, the main feature of EPAs is their reciprocity and non-discriminatory nature.