The Herald (Harare)

26 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Trade Policy Unlocks Export Earnings

Zimbabwe's export earnings are set to improve this year as the National Trade Policy officially launched by President Mugabe last March is consolidated. Its main objective is to increase the national export earnings by at least 10 percent annually in line with the Mid-Term Plan 2011-2015, with the view of containing the huge current account deficit.

There has been steady progress inasfar as implementation is concerned with Government spearheading the process through the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. Zimbabwe has experienced a gradual economic recovery since 2009 and export earnings were projected to amount to US$4,7 billion by 2012 up from US$4,3 billion in 2011, which reflects a growth of plus or minus plus 10 percent.

According to research carried out by the African Development Bank, Zimbabwe's exports from regional markets increased by 20 percent in 2011 from the previous year but failed to sustain the nation's widening trade deficit. This was influenced by favourable international commodity prices and improved output of export commodities from agriculture, mining and manufacturing.

In 2011 regional export earnings stood at US$390 million up from 2010's figure of US$285 million.

According to the National Trade Policy, exports are expected to top US$7 billion in 2016.

"In July 2012 we resuscitated the Industry and Trade Economic Relations Committee, which is an inter-institutional consultative mechanism whose mandate is to spearhead implementation of the NTP and will be the forum through which all industrial and trade information and technicalities will be discussed and addressed in a coherent framework by stakeholders," said Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Mike Bimha.

Chaired by the Minister of Industry and Commerce, the committee is composed of stakeholders from both Government and the private sector involved in industry and commerce.

"The committee will meet monthly and as and when issues arise to address cross-cutting industry and trade issues and provide feedback to negotiators engaged at bilateral, regional and multilateral negotiations then make policy recommendations to the minister," added Deputy Minister Bimha.

Export earnings are also set to increase courtesy of trade promotion activities undertaken so far that include participation at regional and international trade fairs, undertaking trade missions to existing markets and also exploring new markets and expanding the scope of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair.

The deputy minister also said they had since widened their scope of trade development and promotion by engaging trade promotion personnel.

"Trade promotion officers were deployed in some strategic and potential markets in countries like Botswana, Kenya, Brazil and Malaysia to boost the scope of trade development and promotion though we still experience challenges due to financial resource constraints," he said.

"As authorities we have also established mechanisms that facilitate trade bearing in mind the importance of reassuring exporters against risks along the way.

"We have enhanced trade facilitation to expedite trade flows by streamlining and simplifying exporting and importing procedures eliminating customs delays and improving customs administration," Mr Bimha added. He noted that towards the end of October last year, Zimbabwe and Malawi established a simplified trade regime.

"Though there is steady progress in the implementation process of the MTP we remain faced with challenges of institutional capacity development in addition to funding for trade development and promotion," he said

Zimbabwe is in the process of joining the African Trade Insurance Agency, which is a Comesa institution that promotes and supports international and intra-regional trade and investment on behalf of African member states.

This is done through the use of insurance, re-insurance, co-insurance, guarantees and other financial instruments.

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