The interim economic partnership agreement concluded by the European Union (EU) and Zimbabwe came into force yesterday.
Other countries whose agreements also took effect include Mauritius, Madagascar and Seychelles.
The interim Economic Partnership Agreement provides duty and quota free access to the EU market for exports from Mauritius, Madagascar, Seychelles and Zimbabwe.
The agreement also covers provisions on rules of origin, development cooperation, fisheries, trade, defence instruments and dispute settlement.
Under the deal, the countries will gradually open their markets to European exports over the next 15 years, with exceptions for certain products the countries consider sensitive.
Today, our first interim Economic Partnership Agreement with an African region is applied.
This is excellent news and I salute the hard work of negotiators and colleagues on all sides, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said yesterday.
With this trade deal we hope to accompany the development of our partners in Eastern and Southern Africa and open up better and lasting business opportunities.
The EU said the new deal was an improvement for Mauritius, Madagascar, Seychelles and Zimbabwe on the unilateral duty and quota free regime they enjoyed as it encouraged regional integration and strengthened a partnership approach with the bloc.
EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell Arricia last week said trade between the bloc and Zimbabwe had topped $870 million since 2009.
With the EPA agreement, Zimbabwe will continue enjoying tariff and quota free access to the European markets, Arricia said.
The countrys trade and investment is also set to benefit from a ₤50 million financing facility aimed at supporting the regional integration agenda in the Eastern and Southern Africa-Indian Ocean (ESA-IO) region.
In 2011, exports to EU were worth $580 million through the exportation of various products including tobacco and flowers.
At the end of 2007, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Zambia and Zimbabwe concluded an interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU.
In 2000, under the Cotonou Agreement, African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the EU opted for a more ambitious trade and development relationship covering not just trade in goods, but also services, trade-related rules and development co-operation.
Negotiations for such comprehensive trade and development agreements as set out in the Cotonou Agreement started in 2002.
However, it became clear towards the end of 2007 that it would not be possible in all ACP regions to finalise negotiations before the end of the Cotonou trade regime on December 31, 2007.