HARARE – Zimbabwe will negotiate Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) cautiously, Trade minister Mike Bimha said ahead of the forthcoming 9th World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial conference in Bali, Indonesia, next month.
The country is among East and Southern African (ESA) countries set to pursue EPAs negotiations with the European Union at the conference.
“There are some kinds of agreements that you go into fully knowing that it might not be perfect but there is no option,” Bimha said.
“In any case it’s also an issue that you can’t actually have a position as a member state, we need to have a position either as Comesa, Sadc or African Union,” he said, adding that “we continue to engage and believe there is room for us to ensure that those agreements are in our favour.”
The Bali convention comes at a time when costs emanating from the implementation of EPAs and attending fiscal challenges that have opened gaping holes in government’s budgets, are some of the detrimental factors that ESA countries have expressed concern over.
Bimha said some EPAs had “certain areas that were still contentious and it was not possible to fully implement them without thorough checks and balances.”
“That’s why we have more temporary implementation. We still need to negotiate further on areas that are still contentious,” he said.
He noted that there was need to strengthen regional integration in order for African states to fully benefit from the trade negotiations with other economic blocs.
EPAs are a scheme to create a free trade area between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States.