ZIMBABWE has inched closer to ratifying the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement that seeks to foster mutual multi-lateral trade processes among member states.
WTO member states concluded negotiations on the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) on December 2013 at the Bali Ministerial Conference. The protocol provides for expeditious movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit and also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It also provides for technical assistance and capacity building on the trade facilitation provisions.
Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister, Chiratidzo Mabuwa, tabled the motion to ratify the new protocol in Parliament on Tuesday in line with Constitutional requirement that any foreign treaty or agreement should be subjected to approval by the August House. Zimbabwe has been a member of WTO since March 1995.
As a member of the multi-lateral trade body, Cde Mabuwa said Zimbabwe was supposed to adopt the protocol of amendment, which should enter into force upon complete domestication processes by two thirds of WTO members.
“While Zimbabwe was in the midst of finalising its internal processes, on the 22nd February 2017, the number of other WTO member states reached the required threshold of two thirds (2/3) instigating the Protocol to enter into force,” she told Parliament.
“And whereas the Protocol has to pass through Parliament for approval and Presidential assent before the instrument of acceptance is submitted to the WTO secretariat, Zimbabwe as a member of the WTO is supposed to accept the Protocol of Amendment. This motion seeks Parliament to accept the Protocol . . . in order to make the Trade Facilitation Agreement part of our national law.”
Cde Mabuwa said the TFA entered into force at the WTO when Rwanda, Oman, Chad and Jordan submitted their instruments for acceptance in February this year, bringing the total to over the required threshold of 110 acceptances. Several African states such as Botswana, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Swaziland, Togo and Zambia have already accepted the protocol.
The Deputy Minister said all the internal legal processes for the acceptance of the protocol amendment have been undertaken. These include scrutiny and examination by the Attorney-General’s Office, the Public Agreements Advisory Committee (PAAC), consideration and approval by the Cabinet Committee on Legislation (CCL) and by Cabinet itself.
She said Zimbabwe participated in the TFA negotiations and the national negotiating positions were informed by inputs from various stakeholders constituting the National Trade Facilitation Committee. As such, Cde Mabuwa said the country conducted its trade facilitation needs since 2009 to ensure economic interests were protected. She said implementation of the TFA would yield several benefits to the economy.
“This would contribute to reducing costs of trading, and improve on efficiency, transparency and reduction in bureaucracy and corruption through the use of technological advances,” said Cde Mabuwa.
Other benefits include boosting national efforts towards improving the ease of doing business in Zimbabwe and ease of doing export, which augers well with Zim-Asset that prioritises a holistic approach to tackling Zimbabwe’s trade facilitation constraints to enable the country to meaningfully tap into trade and investment opportunities offered in the region and the rest of the world.