Economic challenges, Brexit affect EPAs

EUConrad Mwanawashe and Melody Mashaire

The economic challenges Zimbabwe is currently going through coupled with Britain’s withdrawal from the EU have complicated the country’s position regarding Economic Partnership Agreements, and this calls for a relook at the accords, trade experts have said.Zimbabwe is a signatory to EPAs which were negotiated together under Eastern and Southern Africa, a diverse Economic Partnership Agreement group, including Indian Ocean islands (Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles), countries from the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan) and some southern African countries (Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe).

Addressing stakeholders at an EPAs workshop yesterday, Sadc council of NGOs Regional Economic Integration manager Rangarirai Machemedze said the global environment has since changed since the EPAs were first negotiated.

“The current national economic crisis including the challenges to regional integration and industrialisation efforts should be enough justification to call for a review on the conclusion of a full comprehensive European-African mega deal,” said Mr Machemedze.

More importantly, Britain’s pullout from the EU has posed more questions for regional bloc that negotiated EPAs when the European country was a member of the EU.

“The global environment has since changed since EPAs were first negotiated with the latest Brexit posing serious fundamental questions that need to be asked and answered. What does it mean for countries that had concluded an interim EPA on the basis of what the UK market offered and because of historical ties?” he said.

Mr Machemedze said emphasis should be around rebuilding regional cohesion and solidarity. Addressing the same workshop Mr Chris Tsimba from ZimTrade said for Zimbabwe to reap benefits from trade agreements such as the EPAs, there is need to look carefully at the country’s business environment.

“The SI 64 has come in to shield certain industries so that they can grow, they can strengthen themselves and can be able to supply both the domestic markets and export markets. This is where the importance of trade comes in. We cannot just say we are going to close shops at the same time we should be able to also facilitate the inward coming in of products that we are not efficient at producing or which we do not produce at all or where we are not able to produce the right qualities or the right quantities,” he said.

Also, there is need to support the ease of doing business initiative that Government is currently undertaken in order to create an environment that is conducive to the country’s industry and exporters so that they can produce quality goods.

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