THE EUROPEAN Union, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade on Wednesday officially launched the Zimbabwe European Partnership Agreement Support programme (ZEPA).
The US$11 million intervention seeks to assist the country with the implementation of the Zimbabwe – EU free trade agreement, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
The overall objective of ZEPA is to enhance Zimbabwe’s integration into the regional and international trading system and in particular to increase the volume of exports between the EU and Zimbabwe.
The project, funded from the 11th European Development Fund, started in October 2018 following the signing of a Financing Agreement (FA) between the Government of Zimbabwe and the EU.
“The support focuses on a) improvements in the policy, legislative and regulatory frameworks as well as developing the capacity of trade institutions to manage trade policy and trade agreements, b) improved trade facilitation by reducing the cost and time of trading across borders, and c) the competitiveness and export capacity of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in selected value chains. This third component is implemented by international organisations Welthungerhilfe and CESVI,” EU said in a statement.
The event was presided over by Sibusiso Moyo, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and attended by top government officials, captains of industry, small and medium enterprises actors as well as Heads of EU Missions in Zimbabwe.
Speaking at the launch, Ambassador Timo Olkkonen, the Head of the EU Delegation to Zimbabwe, said the ZEPA project has resources that are ready to be deployed to expedite business climate reforms and in particular to do away with the plethora of regulations, procedures, permits and licence requirements which are raising the cost of exporting rendering Zimbabwe’s exports uncompetitive.
“However, the success of the EPA interventions is dependent on serious commitment by the government authorities to these reforms,” he said.
Zimbabwe and the European Union signed an interim Economic partnership in 2009, which was then ratified and applied from 2012 onwards.
The European Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are trade and development agreements negotiated between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) partners engaged in regional economic integration processes.
EPAs are tailor-made to suit specific regional circumstances and focus on development of the partner state.
Whilst EPAs open up EU markets fully and immediately, they allow ACP countries long transition periods to open up partially to EU imports while providing protection for sensitive sectors.