WTO pact no benefit for Zim

HARARE - Zimbabwe will not benefit from the World Trade Organisation (WTO)’s Bali agreement as the country remains a net importer, Industry minister Mike Bimha said yesterday.

Last month, WTO adopted a trade facilitation pact at the 9th ministerial conference held in Bali, Indonesia.

Whilst the agreement has been designed to provide a solution to the developed world’s need to gain easy access to developing countries’ markets, Bimha said the move will create greater economic challenges for a country such as Zimbabwe as it will result in balance of payments problems and external competition.

“Zimbabwe will not gain much because the country is a net importer. This implies that there will be facilitation of more imports relative to exports and has the effect of negatively affecting our trade balance and balance of payment position,” he said.

Bimha, however, said Zimbabwe together with other developing countries managed to retain some safeguards in implementing the cumbersome and mandatory provisions of the agreement, which carries with it the Dispute Settlement System for cases of breach of obligations.

“The provisions also demand amendments to our legislation as well as large investments in infrastructure and capacity building. Zimbabwe is currently implementing trade facilitation programmes based on our customs regulations. This is not binding and implementation is at our convenient pace and without fear of breach of international provisions and application of a dispute settlement mechanism,” he added.

As part of the agreement, assistance to developing and least developed countries will be directed to update their infrastructure, train customs officials or for any other cost associated with implementing the it.

“The benefits to the world economy are calculated to be between $400 billion and $1 trillion reducing the costs of trade by between 10 and 15 percent, increasing trade flows and revenue collection, creating a stable business environment and attracting foreign investment,” he said.

The Industry minister noted that the text adopted in Bali was not final although the substance will not change.

It will be checked and corrected to ensure the language is legally correct, with a target for the General Council to adopt it by July this year.

Analysts note that Zimbabwe should be among developing countries that need to re-affirm the condemnation of corporate-led globalisation and attempts to reinforce and expand its inherent efforts across the globe.

This comes against a backdrop of African countries’ development in the context of Economic Partnership Agreements (Epas) meant to make reference to overcome major trade-related constraints and achieving certain satisfactory living standards within given time frames.

“We demand that any further and future work on the WTO should focus on redressing the inadequacies, imbalances and on the rollback of iniquitous agreements,” said Thomas Deve of Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (Seatini).

He said Zimbabwe must insist that the needs of developing countries for redressing the imbalances of the WTO cannot be bargained for further expansion of corporate neo-liberalism.

Deve added that the continued existence of the WTO can only be justified if it forms part of an agenda to construct a global trade regime founded on the fulfilment of the needs of peoples and on the respect for the limits of the planet, rather than rapacious calculations of corporate greed.

“The current proposals will divert attention from and even undermine real efforts to address the actual constraints that face African and other poorer countries in terms of the movement of goods and persons across borders — including infrastructure, transport and mobilisation of finance to meet these needs.”

Developed countries are pushing for the conclusion of Epas on trade facilitation at a time when there is deepened imbalance of global wealth and the promise of universal prosperity accruing from global liberalisation and deregulation of economic activity has failed to materialise.

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