The regional business community, under the umbrella of the Comesa Business Council, has recommended that products manufactured within member states should be labelled “Made in Comesa” to further facilitate and promote fair trade.
This is despite the fact several member states are promoting their respective countries’ brands.
Zimbabwe recently launched a “Buy Zimbabwe Campaign” and South Africa has a long-running campaign code-named “Proudly South African” that seeks to promote the consumption of local goods and services.
“We urge member states to consider the ‘Made in Comesa’ labelling as an alternative to country of origin labelling for products that meet Comesa rules of origin requirements to further facilitate and promote fair trade,” reads part of the recommendations of the just ended Comesa business forum.
“We further urge member states to develop deliberate mechanisms for transforming smallholder farmers to the commercial scale.”
The “Buy Zimbabwe Campaign” was launched in a bid to ensure local consumers endear themselves with locally-manufactured products after realising most of retail outlets were flooded with imported products.
The local market has seen an increase in the number of goods from China and other countries that are relatively cheaper than the locally produced ones.
Japan has also flooded the country with its cheap second-hand motor vehicles.
The business forum on agriculture and business, urged member states to prioritise value addition and facilitation of agro-processing to make it a reality as a way of stimulating economic development and food security.
According to a newsletter released at the summit, the business community also called upon countries to consolidate and harmonise bilateral treaties in order to have a common regional investment code for Comesa, East African Community and Southern Africa Development Community.
The trading bloc said 53 bilateral investment treaties have been signed between member states with Zimbabwe having signed four.
Egypt recorded the highest number with 11 signed with other Comesa countries followed by Mauritius with six and Zimbabwe at four.
Zimbabwe is set to ratify all outstanding Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (Bippas) and last Tuesday Parliament approved Bippas with Botswana, India and Iran.
Conditions of the Botswana Bippa include a $70 million credit facility, which is meant to promote joint private business partnerships between players from the two neighbouring countries.
Both the Indian and Iranian agreements were signed in 1999 with the primary aim of fostering mutual trade benefits between Zimbabwe and the two countries.