All Africa | 14 July 2021
Zim, Malawi revise bilateral trade agreement
By Prosper Ndlovo
Zimbabwe and Malawi are engaged in talks to revise their Bilateral Trade Agreement to ensure its provisions speak to a modern-day investor and assist in addressing pressing development needs of the two countries.
Malawi and Zimbabwe signed a Bilateral Trade Agreement in 1995, which allows duty-free imports on reciprocal basis, provided the goods meet 25 percent minimum domestic content provisions and conform to each other’s standards.
The two countries are both members of COMESA and SADC, which means that traders from both states can export or import goods duty-free and quota-free from each other.
However, trade volumes between Malawi and Zimbabwe remain concerningly low amid calls for the private sector and cross border traders to seize trade opportunities by leveraging on the available preferential bilateral and multilateral trade arrangements.
Within the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the two countries are now seized with reviewing the terms of the 1995 Bilateral Trade Agreement in order to buttress the drive to scale up trade gains.
Malawian Minister of Trade, Mr Seston Gwengwe, said this in his keynote address here on Monday when he officially opened the Zimbabwe Malawi Solo Trade Exhibition in which more than 20 Zimbabwean companies are participating.
"We would love to trade more among ourselves as members. As we know, Zimbabwe and Malawi signed a Bilateral Trade Agreement in 1995 and that sounds a very long time ago and things have changed since then," said the youthful minister.
"We need to look at this bilateral trade agreement and see if we can come up with an updated agreement, which speaks to the needs of the modern-day trader and investor in Malawi and Zimbabwe.
"I can say that the 1995 agreement, as we speak, is being looked at.
"So, we will come up with a revised version.
"We are looking at this revised bilateral trade agreement being done pretty much quicker so that our people in Malawi and Zimbabwe can benefit."
The cordial relations between Lilongwe and Harare, which date back to pre-colonial days, must be strengthened by increasing trade ties, added Minister Gwengwe.
According to Trade Map, exports from Malawi to Zimbabwe in 2020, remain lower at about US$35 million.
The majority of exports were dried leguminous vegetables; soya-bean oil cake and other solid residues; unmanufactured tobacco; soya beans; groundnuts, maize, fibreboard, manufactured tobacco, and plastic household articles.
Correspondingly, imports from Zimbabwe to Malawi in 2020 were worth about US$31 million and the main export products being corrugated paper and paperboard; iron and steel structures; packing containers of paper, paperboard; rough wood; agrochemicals; and seeds.
The three-day expo is being coordinated by ZimTrade in collaboration with the Zimbabwean Embassy in Malawi and the Malawi Investment and Trade Centre under the theme: "Kulimbikitsa ubale pamalonda", which means fostering trade partnerships.
Minister Gwengwe also urged Government agencies and support institutions in Zimbabwe and Malawi to compliment efforts of the private sector and ensure that trade between the two countries flows smoothly and uninterrupted.
Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Malawi, Dr Nancy Saungweme, her counterparts from Tanzania and Mozambique and buyers from Malawi, also attended the official opening event.