Zimbabwe, UK set for trade boost

Melanie Robinson British Ambassador to Zimbabwe and VP Chiwenga

HARARE – Britain is keen to increase trade with Zimbabwe now that it is free of the European Union (EU) and can make deals around the world outside the framework of the bloc.

Responding to questions on the implications of Brexit, and the final arrangements that came into force at the beginning of this year, and what it means to Zimbabwe, the British embassy in Harare said last year Zimbabwe ratified an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the UK.

“Following the end of the transition period, the EPA now allows Zimbabwean exporters to continue to enjoy tariff and quota-free access to the UK market, laying the foundation for a strong trade partnership in the future,” said UK Ambassador to Zimbabwe Ms Melanie Robinson.

Britain will continue to support Zimbabwean businesses and jobs for economic development.

“The total trade in goods and services — both exports and imports — between Britain and Zimbabwe in the four quarters to end of the second quarter of 2020 was US$412m.”

The development comes as the two countries’ diplomatic ties intensify, which dovetails into President Mnangagwa engagement and re-engagement drive.

Last year, the British government announced a US$43,6 million aid package towards Covid-19 medical supplies to assist in fighting the pandemic in Zimbabwe.

The EPA with Britain, ratified last October, allows Zimbabwean exporters access to UK markets free of tariffs and quotas and is expected to boost trade and investment between the two countries as Government’s re-engagement drive continues to bear fruit.

The ratification of the EPA follows the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union, meaning it can no longer trade under the Eastern and Southern Africa-EU EPA.

Last year, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Eswatini, Lesotho and Mozambique signed the same EPA trade deal with the UK.

Speaking after the ratification of EPA, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister, Dr Sibusiso Moyo said the ratification of the deal was a big step in the country’s re-engagement efforts.

“This is a huge step for Zimbabwe’s re-engagement efforts. The signing of this partnership will undoubtedly bring increased trade and investment to Zimbabwe,” said Dr Moyo.

Ms Robinson welcomed Zimbabwe’s decision to ratify the EPA.

“Glad Zimbabwe has ratified the Economic Partnership Agreement with the UK. This ensures that exporters continue to enjoy tariff and quota free access to the UK market.

“The UK supports Zimbabwean businesses and jobs for economic development,” she wrote on her Twitter handle.

Britain voted to leave the EU following a referendum held in June 2016 and has since been negotiating separate trade deals.

Turning to the level four lockdown measures, the embassy said it understood the requirement for the Zimbabwean Government to adhere to World Health Organisation guidelines on containing the spread of Covid-19.

The UK last week announced the allocation of an extra US$5,4m funding to feed some of those worst affected by the humanitarian challenges in Zimbabwe, which have been exacerbated by Covid-19.

This additional aid to Zimbabwe, she said, was part of a wider package of emergency aid for some of the most vulnerable countries in the Sahel, Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, Uganda, Venezuela and Mozambique.

Over the last 10 years, the UK has spent more than $1 billion in aid in Zimbabwe.

The UK is one of the countries that have been assisting Zimbabwe in times of need, including when the Southern African country was hit by the tropical Cyclone Idai and the Covid-19 pandemic. – Herald