The Sunday News
Zimbabwe has begun the process of ratifying a bilateral trade agreement signed with Britain, as Harare moves to fully join other countries lined up by London, in its economic link plan under the Brexit bid.
Britain’s departure from the EU means it cannot trade with countries under the current Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) — EU Economic Partnership Agreement.
Britain’s agreements with individual countries pave way for its post-Brexit trade.
Recently, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Eswatini, Lesotho and Mozambique signed the ESA-UK trade deal as the European economic giant moves to secure its economic interests ahead of its departure from the 28-member European Union.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade secretary Ambassador James Manzou told our Harare Bureau that the agreement included issues on trade relations and free movement of goods.
“Britain is planning on exiting the European Union. Zimbabwe and other East and Southern African countries are signatories to a partnership agreement with the EU called the EU-ESA agreement. Now that Britain is pulling out of the EU, it means the EU-ESA can no longer trade with them under the terms of that agreement. However, our trade agreement with the rest of the EU continues under the terms of the EU-ESA agreement. This now means there is need for a separate agreement for countries such as us to continue to trade with the UK.”
Added ambassador Manzou: “The UK put forward a draft partnership agreement which is similar to the EU-ESA agreement so that countries like ours can continue to trade with the UK. It is our practice that when an agreement has been signed, it has to be ratified. At the moment, Zimbabwe is going through the ratification process.”
The process involves going through Cabinet, Parliament and accent by the President. Britain is set to leave the EU on October 31 following the June 2016 referendum that effectively marked the end of the UK’s near four-decade membership of the bloc.
Meanwhile, Sadc countries are priming themselves for next week’s historic Zimbabwe anti-sanctions day, through a plethora of events to send a unified message as they lobby for the removal of economic sanctions imposed on this country over the past two decades.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently sent letters to his counterparts in various regional capitals appraising them of how sanctions have ravaged Zimbabwe and preparations for the regional day of solidarity with Zimbabwe.
Regional leaders declared October 25 as a day for solidarity with Zimbabwe against the economic embargo, during the Sadc Heads of State and Government meeting held in Tanzania recently.
Member States will hold a series of events, in their respective countries, aimed at sending a message to the United States and some Western countries.
Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet (Presidential Communications) Mr George Charamba told our Harare Bureau recently that all Sadc leaders had been appraised of how sanctions had impacted Zimbabwe’s economic prospects.
“The President has been in contact with his counterparts in all regional capitals through diplomatic channels. He has been appraising them of the impact the sanctions have had on the country, particularly how they are stifling our development aspirations.”
This comes as Government has prepared a paper itemising how the decade long embargo has hamstrung the country. The paper details adverse effects of sanctions on economic sectors spanning from aviation, agriculture, health, manufacturing, finance and banking and tourism.
Zimbabwe, according to the paper, has lost over US$42 billion in revenue over the past 18 years while donor support estimated to the tune of US$4,5 billion has been lost annually since 2001. Further, US$12 billion worth of loans from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and African Development Bank, commercial loans of US$18 billion have been lost while the GDP has shrunk by US$21 billion.
According to the paper, more than 400 000 Zimbabweans lost their private sector jobs between 2005 and 2013 while the number of people living in extreme poverty grew from 10 percent of the population to over 30 percent since the sanctions were imposed.
A senior diplomatic source who spoke to our Harare Bureau last week said there was displeasure among regional leaders over the refusal by the West to remove the sanctions. The Sadc Heads of State summit in 2010 set up a regional facilitation team led by the then Namibian foreign Affairs Minister Tuliamani Kalomoh, representation from Zambia and South Africa, to lobby for removal of sanctions in Britain, US and the EU. However, these efforts were spurned by the West at the instigation of the opposition element in the Zimbabwe Government of National Unity.
According to the Government paper on the adverse impact of sanctions, the local private sector has struggled to access off shore funding and in cases where it is availed it attracts exorbitant premiums. Further, most companies have failed to service their debts resulting in foreign suppliers demanding cash up front. Sanctions have also affected the supply of vaccines and drugs for livestock resulting in failure to control diseases like foot and mouth and this in turn affects the country’s beef export. Given that 70 percent of funding for animal health programmes were through collaborative work, the withdrawal of funds hard hit the sector. Since 2001, there has been huge shortages in vaccines, dipping chemicals and antibiotics, unlike from 1980 to 1990 where there were no recorded shortages.