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Zim signs economic partnership accord

The Herald, Zimbabwe

Zim signs economic partnership accord

By Obert Chifamba

14 September 2009

Zimbabwe recently joined five other African countries in signing the Eastern and Southern Africa European Commission (ESAEC) Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA) in Mauritius, Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Mike Bimha has said.

The partnership is designed to take care of trade relations while negotiations towards the full adoption and implementation of the IEPA continue.

Six ESA countries that included Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar and Seychelles initiated the IEPA in 2007. Zambia and Comoros are yet to sign the agreement.

Deputy Minister Bimha said the IEPA replaces the trade provisions of the Cotonou Agreement that expired on December 31 2007. In the period between December 2007 and the signing of the IEPA, trade was governed by EC regulation number 1528/2007.

Benefits of signing the IEPA include provisions on trade, fisheries and economic development co-operation.

"On the trade provision, the EC will grant duty-free quota-free market access to the European market on all goods exported by ESA states except for sugar and rice which have a transition arrangement for a limited duration.

"With regard to sugar, the ESA signatory states have also secured an additional quota of 75 000 in addition to their present quotas for the 2008/09 marketing season," he said.

He added that on textiles and clothing, the EC had agreed to provide the Single Transformation Rule of Origin.

This means that clothing companies in the ESA signatory states can now source fabrics from all over the world, undertake any operations and export to the EU market free of duty and quota restrictions.

The move was a significant improvement from the present requirement for Double Transformation Rule, which restricted the sourcing of raw materials to other ACP countries and the EU, observed Mr Bimha.

By the same token, signatory ESA states will face Single Transformation Rule on clothing and textile imports from EC, he added.

The ESA signatory states, on their part, have agreed to gradually liberalise 80 percent of their trade on imports from EU covering mainly capital, raw materials and intermediate goods over a period of 15 years, with an initial five year moratorium period.

For the Least Developed Countries, exceptionally few products will be liberalised over 25 years. After this period 20 percent of the trade, mainly agricultural and final products, will remain completely excluded from any liberalisation.

On development co-operation, the parties committed themselves to work together to address development needs associated with the EPA implementation, aimed strengthening regional integration and fostering structural transformation to boost productivity thereby enhancing competitiveness and sustained growth in the ESA member states.

The EC further agreed to contribute towards the resources required for development under the 10th EDF Regional Indicative Strategic Programs (RISP), aid for trade and the EU general budget.

"There is, therefore, need to prepare our industries for the market opportunities with a view of ensuring that they will be ready for competition when it eventually lands. Otherwise there could be huge adjustment costs," Mr Bimha said.