BULAWAYO, July 21 (The Source) –The European Union (EU) has called on companies in Zimbabwe to take advantage of the duty and quota-free access to its market under the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) to establish a market in the bloc.
Zimbabwe signed an interim EPA in March 2012, a step further towards a comprehensive EPA. The interim pact already gives Zimbabwe 100 percent duty free-quota, free access into the EU market, with a transition period for rice and sugar, according to the EU.
In return, Zimbabwe has committed to liberalising 80 percent of her imports from the EU by 2022 (45 percent by 2012 with the remaining 35 percent of imports being liberalised progressively until 2022).
Zimbabwe left out 20 percent of industries and products it sought to protect and would not be affected by liberalisation, including cereals, beverages, paper, plastics and rubber, textiles and clothing, footwear, glass and ceramics, consumer electronics, some animal products and vehicles.
“The country has signed an agreement so now it’s up to companies to look into the agreement clearly, to say for example, what can I do to make most of it? What is there for me practically or can I use the agreement to increase my exports or improve the quality of my products?” said the European Commission’s trade, private sector, regional integration consultant John Olympio addressing delegates to a trade seminar on Monday in Bulawayo.
He said there was a market for high quality products, which local companies could exploit.
Zimbabwe has registered a nearly five-fold increase in exports to the European Union to $153 million buoyed by diamond exports to Belgium and reengagement efforts between the southern African nation and the bloc, latest trade figures from the International Trade Centre have shown.
While the country continues to have a trade deficit with the EU, imports on the other hand have been on a downward trend, dropping to $574 million in 2014 from $1,75 billion in 2013 with fuel and machinery constituting the bulk.
Recently, ZimTrade revealed that Zimbabwe’s exports of fresh leguminous vegetables (peas and beans) to the EU increased by 269 percent to $20 million last year from $5,4 million in 2010.
Zimbabwe’s major export destinations in the EU were the United Kingdom, France and Netherlands.
The EU market is the largest economy in the world with a GDP per capita of ₤25,000 for its 500 million consumers. It accounts for 16,4 percent of global imports and is also the biggest exporter, accounting for 15,4 percent of world exports.
Relations between Harare and the EU have gradually thawed since 2009 when the veteran ruler agreed to share power with the opposition after a disputed 2008 poll, and has continued to improve ties despite yet another controversial election in 2013 which extended Mugabe’s 34 year-old rule.
It continues to maintain a travel ban and asset freeze on Mugabe and his wife Grace as well as an arms embargo.