Zimbabwe gives effect to post-Brexit market access offer

THE United Kingdom (UK) market remains open for Zimbabwean exports and sourcing of key raw materials under a post-Brexit market access offer, which came into effect early this year.

Zimbabwe is a member to bilateral and multilateral agreements, including SADC, Comesa, the latest African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the UK Economic Partnership Agreement, among others.

When the UK exited the European Union configuration in 2017 after 47 years under a withdrawal agreement popularly known as “Brexit”, it meant that agreements the UK had with the EU, including the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (iEPA) obligations with Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA), no longer applied when Zimbabwe was trading with the UK.

The UK is a key export destination for peas, citrus fruits, berries and cut flowers, among others. In order to address the Brexit challenge, Zimbabwe was now required to have a different trade agreement with the
UK under preferential terms, the Competition and Tariff Commission (CTC), explained. 

Before Brexit, Zimbabwe and UK trade relations were governed by the EU-ESA iEPA, which was signed in August 2009. The iEPA allowed Zimbabwe’s exports to enter the European market, including the UK then, duty free quota free for all goods exported by ESA countries, except sugar and rice, which had limited duration transitional arrangements.

“Discussions on a new agreement were then entered into with a view to avoid trade disruption between UK and ESA member states. Parties agreed to trade under similar terms as those prevailing under the iEPA but, however, broadening and widening the agreement,” said the tariffs authority in a public notice yesterday.

“Regardless of Brexit, the UK market remains open for Zimbabwean products and is a source of raw materials/inputs required in local production.”

Broadening implied inclusion of framework provisions such as rules of origin, customs and trade facilitation, fisheries and intellectual property rights, among others.

In view of these, Zimbabwe-together with Mauritius and Seychelles in January 2019 signed an agreement with the UK to facilitate continuation of the preferential trade agreement. The country completed its ratification process of the agreement last year in September.

“To give effect to its market access offer to the UK, it (Zimbabwe), gazetted Statutory Instrument (S.I.) 9 of 2021 Customs and Excise (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) and Eastern Southern Africa (Suspension) market access offer Regulations, 2021,” said CTC.

“The S.I. effective from 1st January 2021 shows applicable rates of duty for exports from the UK into Zimbabwe for the period 2021 and 2022, for qualifying products imported under the agreement.”

According to CTC, by year 2023, about 80 percent of trade by imports volume from UK, as agreed in 2007, would enter the Zimbabwean market duty-free quarter-free. This year alone, about 1 824 tariff lines would enter the local market on condition they meet the rules of origin criteria provided in the agreement, said the commission. – Herald