The Sunday Mail
ZIMBABWE has been presented with yet another opportunity to deepen its re-engagement efforts with some Western countries after Harare last week became part of five African countries that launched negotiations with the European Union (EU) Commission to deepen ties under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) partnership.
Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar and Seychelles (ESA-5) took part at the inaugural meeting with the EU Commission in Mauritius last week.
The high level indaba deliberated strategies to boost trade and diversifying engagement under the EPA and Eastern and Southern African (ESA) trade pact which has been in existence since 2002, but was limited in scope.
At the meeting, Zimbabwe was represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade special advisor Ambassador Stuart Combabach, permanent representative to the EU in Brussels Ambassador Tadious Chifamba and senior Government officials.
Speaking to The Sunday Mail after the meeting, Ambassador Chifamba said Zimbabwe stood to benefit through increased exports to the EU.
He said Harare also eyed more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and technical assistance from the 28- member bloc, following the EPA-ESA-5 meeting.
“The negotiation on the deepening of the EPA are part of the strategy for Zimbabwe to strengthen the re-engagement with the EU, integrate into global value chains with a view to reviving the economic fortunes of the country,” said Ambassador Chifamba.
“It is envisaged that the deepened EPA will further attract the much needed Foreign Direct Investment.
“Furthermore, the EPA will provide an opportunity for growth in the SME sector which is critical for the country’s development.
“Zimbabwe stands to benefit from additional technical assistance to be provided by the EU in the promotion of regional value chains, meeting EU standards and export diversification among others.”
Ambassador Chifamba said the EPA Agreement establishes a stable and predictable trade partnership for the development of the ESA-5 region as well as increased trading in agriculture products from Zimbabwe to the EU.
“It consolidates the duty-free, quota-free market access which the EU offers to all exports from the five ESA States,” he said.
“The ESA-5 countries will gradually open their markets to EU exports over 15 years, with some exceptions for products that ESA countries consider sensitive.”
“In this regard, Zimbabwe will gradually liberalise 80 percent of its imports from the EU within 15 years, after a moratorium (grace period) of five years (2008 – 2012). Zimbabwe excluded sensitive products totalling 20 percent of tradable products from liberalisation. Most of these goods are agricultural products.”
Ambassador Chifamba added that the ESA-5 States and the European Commission had made an important agreement for “more favourable conditions for boosting bilateral trade and investment flows.”
The Sunday Mail gathered that another agreement made was to boost economic cooperation and collective efforts in achieving Sustainable Development Goals and addressing challenges such as climate change.
A resolution was also reached to deepen the current EPA to support the regional and continental integration in Africa as well as the implementation of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs launched in September 2018.
Writing on his microblogging site, Twitter , EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe Ambassador Timo Olkkonen said the deepening of the EPA-ESA 5 pact was a historic development in the strengthening of relations between the 28 member bloc and Harare.
“We are talking about serious stuff here: trade, services, investment, technical barriers to trade, intellectual property rights and sustainable development. A real opportunity to boost & diversify EU-Zimbabwe relations
“The EU is an important trade partner for #Zimbabwe and the largest export market for Africa. A comprehensive agreement would boost bilateral trade and investment flows, improve the business and investment climate and stimulate Zimbabwe’s economy (for example by diversifying exports to the #EU.”
Ambassador Olkonnen said beyond the trade in goods, the EPA-ESA-5 partnership will also result in more comprehensive partnerships for projects related to services, investment, customs, rules of origin and sustainable development.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration is heightening engagement with the EU as part of the agenda to normalise relations with the global family of nations.
In February this year, relations between Zimbabwe and EU were upgraded from informal to formal engagements for the parties to enhance their diplomatic rapport.