From Happiness Zengeni in SHARM EL SHEIK, Egypt
THE private sector should lead the way in ensuring that the Tripartite Free Trade Area, to be launched here today is successful, Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha has said.
Minister Bimha told journalists yesterday that the world over governments did not grow economies, rather, they created a conducive environment and facilitated bilateral agreements with other countries.
“We want to see the private sector taking the lead. At the end of the day, it’s in their interests to see that the TFTA is successful as they produce the goods and services that are needed for trade. Government is there to facilitate and come up with a conducive agreement.”
He said for the TFTA to be successful, African countries should improve on their infrastructure deficiencies.
“The roads, rail and power are the three major infrastructure areas that need attention. We need to ensure that when there is power or that even when it is available it comes at a much lower cost than is currently prevailing in the case of Zimbabwe.”
The minister added that there was need to focus on reducing the cost of production in order to create an efficient industry.
“By creating the TFTA we aim at enlarging the markets for the benefits of economies of scale, to use efficiently the natural resources. And this fits perfectly into the goals of Zim-Asset,” he said.
The Tripartite consists of 26 states that are members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the East African Community and the Southern African Development Community.
The COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement will be signed by the Heads of State and Government and the Sharm El Sheikh Declaration launching the TFTA.
The others are Post Signature Implementation Roadmap, the Indicative Schedule of Negotiations on Outstanding Issues in Phase I and Phase II negotiations, and the Programme of Work on Movement of Business Persons and the Industrial Development Pillar.
Minister Bimha said there were still areas which needed to be ironed out between the member states.
“The launch is not the end of the process, but rather its beginning.”
He noted that the tripartite arrangement still had a long way before the agreement gets into force and there was therefore need to finalise negotiations on the exchange on tariff offers, rules of origin, trade remedies, and complete the ratification procedures.
“It’s one thing for member states to sign and another for that agreement to be ratified. There are various factors which come into play. For instance, does it help Zimbabwe to free up its markets when it is in the process of re-industrialising? Of course we will sign but let’s have measures to boost capacity.”
He added that Zimbabwe was a victim of the Sadc Rules of Origin agreement while various trade agreements which are heavily skewed in favour of South Africa are still subject to negotiations.
“We need to come up with a workable mechanism on how to get past this but discussions will have to take place on a bilateral basis.” Countries that will sign the Tripartite Agreement will initiate the legislative process of ratification while those that do not sign will be given a specific time-frame to do so.