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Economic partnerships a must — ZIA

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The Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) yesterday told Parliament that Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) were good as they would liberalise the economy by 80% and give access to the European Union market and preferential trade treatment to Zimbabwe.

ZIA chief executive officer Richard Mbaiwa made the disclosure when he appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs chaired by Zaka East MP Samson Mukanduri.

“Being part of EPAs is in our view very important because it will give us preferential treatment into the European Union market and promote investment and competitiveness of our products and goods,” said Mbaiwa.

“One of the issues under consideration in EPAs is that whatever product is produced in the market will have to meet specific standards and this will help Eastern and Southern African countries to rebuild regional markets and improve standards of their products.”

Mbaiwa said while investment opportunities and lines of credit might improve, the only fear was there might be an influx of imported goods into the country, which might lead to de-industrialisation.
“But, we think that the benefits of EPAs would be availability of goods and services to the general populace,” he said.

However, MPs felt they needed adequate advice on the positive and negative aspects of EPAs to enable them to make an informed decision.

Hwange Central MP Brian Tshuma warned EPAs were a repackaged liberalised agenda of Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap), which led the country into economic collapse or what he described as “sodomised the economy”

Tshuma said EPAs had nothing to do with the elite, but bread and butter issues affecting the poor people.

Bulawayo Central MP Dorcas Sibanda said public hearings to gather views from Zimbabweans were necessary before Parliament approved the signing of EPAs.

Mbaiwa said the difference between Esap and EPAs was that the former opened up the economy to allow for free trade, whereas EPAs were a two-way process where trade concessions would be given to the other party and that partner would reciprocate.

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