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COMESA members told to keep eye on globalisation

Zambia News Agency

COMESA members told to keep eye on globalisation

5 December 2005

Lusaka, December 5, ZANIS-Vice President Lupando Mwape has advised the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) to take into account the global, regional and local developments in all its endeavours.

Speaking in a speech read for him by Acting Vice President, Mines and Minerals Minister Kalombo Mwansa, Mr. Mwape said these developments have a great bearing on the regional body’s integration agenda.

This was at the official openeing of the 20th COMESA Council of Ministers meeting held in Lusaka today.

Mr. Mwape told the Council of Ministers that with a projected growth rate of about five percent, it maybe hard to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

He added that with the unprecedented calamities that affected the world, this would have an impact on the global output for 2005 as billions of funds would have to be channeled to humanitarian assistance.

He however noted that COMESA being a building bloc for African Union, diversification remains a viable option for economies to grow adding that this would require efficient transport links and growing domestic, regional and international markets.

The Vice President however observed that successful development of the region would only take place through political stability and economic cooperation among all the african countries.

He said it was cardinal for COMESA and SADC to coexist in the spirit of the african union.

He was happy to note that with the launch of the COMESA Free Trade Area (FTA) new markets have been opened for some products such as sugar and textiles.

Mr. Mwape said Zambia for instance was exporting copper to Egypt under the FTA adding that in 2004 alone Zambia’s exports to COMESA countries had reached to US 275 dollars which was 17 percent of her global exports.

He further observed that the year 2005 has been fairly good for Zambia as the country has since tremendous growth resulting in to the stabilisation of the kwacha.

He urged member countries to pay particular attention to the improvement of the domestic investiment climate in the region which he described as being far below the ideal level.

And COMESA secretary General Erastus Mwencha told the meeting that the COMESA intra-trade amongst members was growing by 20 percent every year.

Mr. Mwencha however noted that there was need to take advantage of the window of opportunities for increasing trade and investment through regional integration.

Mr. Mwencha also pointed out that it would be good for COMESA if more member states joined the FTA in 2006 citing Comoros and Libya as some of the countries that had expressed willingness to join.

He assured the member states that in order to continue to support trade developments in COMESA the regional body will continue to fine tune the rules of origin by introducing additional criteria to make it all conforming.

The Secretary General meanwhile explained that plans are underway to to develop a trade policy for the customs union including policy space to be given to all member states under the common external tariff.

Speaking later COMESA Chairman for the council of minister James Musoni said there was need for developed countries to increase market access, investment and industrialisation, food security and rural development.

Mr. Musoni who is also Commerce , Trade, Investment Promotion, Tourism and Cooperatives minister in Rwanda cautioned member states to be wary of barriers that exist in the region whilst wishing to dismantle those of the first world.

He however submitted that a sustained growth of at least seven percent per annum was needed to meet the millennium development goals.

He has since called for free movement of goods and services across borders as the only sure way to effective integration and intra africa trade.

Meanwhile Mr. Mwape has challenged ministers to come up with practical solutions to deal with the food crisis in the region.

He said whilst this was the case the region had places that had surplus of food whilst others had nothing.

He commended COMESA for putting in place programmes that sought to make the regional agricultural sector competitive and ensure regional food security