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Davies puts Harare on notice over exports impasse

| Economic factors

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has given Zimbabwe a three-week grace period in which SA’s neighbour has to reopen its doors to South African exporters.

This development follows a long anticipated meeting between Davies and his Zimbabwean counterpart, Mike Bimha.

The parties have to resolve the impasse before a Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting of trade ministers in Botswana later in August.

"On August 24, there should be an agreement reached where there are a series of surcharges and additional tariff increases that were applicable to the export interests of SA," said Davies.

Although Davies availed himself to journalists for a briefing in Pretoria on Thursday afternoon, Bimha skipped the address.

But Bimha did provide a list of the factors that drove Zimbabwe to impose a blanket import ban on South African goods, one of which was that his country’s economy and some of its industries were under strain because of imports from SA and other SADC countries.

Davies said Zimbabwe should have followed a process under the SADC protocol that sets out procedural requirements before cutting trade ties.

"Should there be any variation in the application under those commitments, there should be an application to the council of the ministers of trade," said Davies.

SA is Zimbabwe’s biggest trade partner within SADC and exports manufactured and agro-processed goods to its northern neighbour.

Under SADC protocol, which regulates interstate trade, a member country is allowed to adopt protection measures provided it demonstrates that its industries are under distress.

Should Zimbabwe do this, it would be able to work out a win-win solution with SA.

"We believe that the coherence of the integrity of the regional trade agreement should be followed procedurally," said Davies.

Davies has asked for assurance that any preferences Zimbabwe gives to regional suppliers and movement away from SADC protocol be communicated with SA.

SA has also identified 112 out of 1,000 tariff lines that it does not believe Zimbabwe has the capacity to produce, and has asked that its neighbour rethink these and provide feedback.

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