In a huge boost to the country's re-engagement drive, the inaugural meeting of the Zimbabwe Economic Partnership Agreement Support Project Committee aimed at enhancing Harare's integration into regional and international trading systems, was held yesterday.
The agreement is being implemented over a five-year period with the assistance of the European Union (EU) and is being chaired by the Office of the President and Cabinet, represented by Chief Secretary Dr Misheck Sibanda.
"The overall objective of the project is to enhance Zimbabwe's integration into the regional and international trading system.
"Specific objectives of the project seek to achieve the following; reform and streamline policy, regulatory and institutional frameworks in order to incentivise production and trade; reduce trading costs and to expedite movement, release and clearance of goods and improve the competitiveness and export capacity of small and medium-sized enterprises," said Dr Sibanda.
He added that as part of the implementation of the project Zimbabwe signed an interim Economic Partnership Agreement (i-EPA) with the EU in August 2009.
"Zimbabwe in 2016 gazetted the EU market access offer. In order to support the implementation of the i-EPA, Zimbabwe signed the ZEPA Project Financing Agreement with the EU in January 2017.
"Subsequently, the EU availed 10 million euro for this project under the 11th European Development Fund," he said.
Dr Sibanda added that the Committee will provide oversight, policy and strategic guidance in the implementation of ZEPA.
"I understand the alignment of ZEPA to the country's socio-economic development blueprint, Transitional Stabilisation Programme is ongoing.
"The TSP prioritises fiscal consolidation, economic stabilisation and stimulation of economic growth and creation of employment.
"The economic growth envisaged under TSP will inevitably be driven by the private sector, with Government providing the necessary conducive macro-economic and business environment.
"Focus will also be on value addition and beneficiation in order to realise higher value exports, among other objectives," said Dr Sibanda.
He added that the success of the TSP required a coordinated, multi-stakeholder approach saying the ZEPA project would go a long way in aiding Government efforts to revive the economy.
Dr Sibanda also said the implementation of ZEPA would to facilitate the release of grants to Business Support Organisations to enhance competitiveness of SMEs and necessary value chains.
"This is particularly so in the wake of Zimbabwe being a member of the African Continental Free Trade Area which provides endless possibilities of a larger market for goods and services," he said.
Dr Sibanda said the official launch of dialogue between Zimbabwe and the EU was part of the Government's re-engagement agenda to reintegrate the country into the global family of nations.
Members of the ZEPA Steering Committee include Office of the President and Cabinet as the chair, ministries of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Industry and Commerce, and Finance and Economic Development.
From the €10 million provided by the EU, €2,9 million is for technical assistance, €1 million for supplies contract, €5 million in grants, €200 000 for incidentals, €550 000 for contingencies and €350 000 for audit, evaluation and communication.
Government sees enhancing good relations with the rest of the world, especially the EU, as central to economic turnaround.