UK, US in renewed calls for Zim reforms 

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Sindiso Mhlophe  

THE United Kingdom (UK) and United States of America (US) have once again accentuated the need for Zimbabwe to implement sound political and economic reforms in order to address the country’s crises and unlock the much-needed international support and investment, the Daily News on Sunday reports.

This comes as the government has insisted it is implementing sound political and economic reforms in a bid to re-engage with the international community.

Speaking during a meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Policy Review Body meeting, attended by deputy Foreign Affairs minister David Musabayana recently, the UK’s ambassador to the WTO and United Nations, Julian Braithwaite said while the government’s efforts to reform were welcome, there was still a need for the government to implement fundamental reforms in order for the country to unlock international trade among other things.

“We welcome the government of Zimbabwe’s commitment to economic and political reforms and hope to see more trade and investment with Zimbabwe in the future. We believe there is notable potential in the renewable energy, agriculture and financial services sectors; sectors with the potential to improve livelihoods and financial inclusion.

“While we recognise the challenges caused by external shocks such as Cyclone Idai and now Covid-19, we continue to be deeply concerned by the lack of fundamental reforms. This is leading to the economic crisis that most Zimbabweans are facing today. Inflation has continued to rise with the year on year inflation rate for the month of July 2020 standing at 838 percent. Extreme poverty has increased and humanitarian needs are rising,” Braithwaite said.

Braithwaite added that meaningful progress on reforms, along with respect for human rights and the rule of law, were the only ways to sustainably deal with Zimbabwe’s underlying challenges, unlock significant investment and bring about a better future for the country and its people.

“As noted in the reports prepared for this review, corruption continues to hamper Zimbabwe’s development by capturing public and private resources, distorting economic decision making and undermining governance and accountability.

“We continue to urge Zimbabwe to guarantee the independence of the Anti-Corruption Commission and the courts and to take the necessary steps to address corruption, and tackle entrenched vested interests and illicit financial flows.

“Within the mining sector, signing up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, restarting efforts to digitise mining licences and ensuring compliance with environmental impact assessment requirements, would go some way to restoring the confidence of international investors,” Braithwaite said.

He commended the government’s effort in resolving outstanding land issues through the compensation of white former commercial farmers and those who were protected under the Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements (BIPPAs) and Bilateral Investment Treaties

“We encourage Zimbabwe to take credible steps to ensure the viability and security of tenure in the 99-year leases, stop further farm invasions, ensure continued progress on compensation and guarantee respect for court decisions on property rights disputes. Taking these actions on land is critical to unlocking international investment into the agriculture sector in Zimbabwe,” Braithwaite said.

Braithwaite urged the government to remove barriers to the importation of renewable energy equipment, and to continue with efforts to improve the enabling environment in the distributed power sector.

“The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the UK and the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) States signed by Zimbabwe in January 2019 will enable duty-free and quota-free access on goods from Zimbabwe into the UK.

“We understand the Agreement is awaiting completion of the domestication processes. We hope Zimbabwe will complete the necessary processes as soon as possible to ensure that Zimbabwean exports to the UK will not face new or higher tariffs, which would disrupt the horticultural sector in particular,” he said.

Speaking at the same event, the US ambassador to the WTO Dennis Shea said numerous obstacles undermine Zimbabwe’s efforts to increase trade and harness its benefits, thereby impeding the country’s sustainable development.

“While Zimbabwe has made some improvements, we agree with the Secretariat Report that there is significant scope for Zimbabwe to implement broader economic reforms and improve the business environment.

“Zimbabwe is an original WTO Member, having been a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) contracting party. However, Zimbabwe has not yet incorporated the WTO Agreement into domestic law by passing enabling legislation. We ask Zimbabwe during this Trade Policy Review to provide a timeline for passing such legislation.

“It is not clear that the WTO Agreement prevails in a matter in which domestic law is not consistent with the WTO Agreement. In addition, while we commend Zimbabwe for ratifying the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), we ask Zimbabwe to provide further information on its plans to fulfil certain obligations,” Shea said.

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