Mukudzei Chingwere Herald Reporter
The United Kingdom (UK) wants to scale up trade and economic cooperation with Zimbabwe ahead of its official exit from the European Union (EU).
This was said by UK Ambassador to Zimbabwe Melanie Robinson after paying a courtesy call on Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo at his offices in Harare yesterday.
The thawing of relations between Zimbabwe and Britain and the envisaged boom in trade could further give impetus to Zimbabwe’s engagement and re-engagement drive.
Zimbabwe’s differences with many Western countries, especially those in the European Union, have largely been a result of disagreements with the United Kingdom, particularly over the land question.
The EU imposed embargoes on Zimbabwe in 2002 after the launch of the fast-track Land Reform Programme but had eased most of them by 2013 when 81 officials and eight local companies were struck off the sanctions list.
Zimbabwe and the UK recently signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) as relations between the two are appearing to improve, following President Mnangagwa’s stance of being “a friend of everyone and enemy of none”.
“We had a meeting with Honourable Minister SB Moyo, and this was an opportunity to meet I think for the last time, before the UK ends its transition period of leaving the EU,” said Ambassador Robinson.
“We talked about some of the opportunities between our countries. We have agreed on a new trade agreement which provides free and open access to Zimbabwean trade into the UK.
“Zimbabwe’s trade with the UK is always open. It was open under the EU. It’s now that we have a separate trade agreement, and that is an opportunity for us to deepen and widen in future.”
Ambassador Robinson said Zimbabwean products, especially from horticulture farmers, were doing well on the UK market and envisaged opening new frontiers for other farmers.
“One of the most successful Zimbabwean products in the UK is blueberries. There are many products that find themselves into the shelves of the UK and indeed we have a project with farmers here in Zimbabwe to help them meet UK standards and access markets in the UK and so we look forward to those exports growing and growing.
“What we are trying to do now more is to support Zimbabweans who are trying to trade in the UK is to connect them to those markets.
“We took a trade mission last year to connect horticulture farmers to supermarkets in the UK, we will continue to do those proactive things that will allow Zimbabwe’s trade to go up in the future with the UK.”
Ambassador Robinson said her government still had reservations on Zimbabwe’s reforms and implored the Government to keep driving forward, the implementation of the reforms.
In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said: “In a marathon meeting that saw discussions range from the usual topics of human rights, corruption and rule of law, it was pleasing to note that Zimbabwe and the UK are looking to increase trade cooperation through the export of agricultural produce, cooperate in mitigating the adverse effects of climate change, debt relief, as well as exploring increased investment in renewable energy.
“Through continued cooperation, Zimbabwe seeks to benefit from the newly approved Covid-19 vaccine which the UK is rolling out in its millions.”
As part of the country’s economic revival strategy which is primed towards attaining an upper middle income economy by 2030, President Mnangagwa has said the agricultural sector is expected to play a key role.
Zimbabwe has made it clear that it is willing to walk the talk on the reform agenda, which is a process that cannot be finalised like an event.
Among the notable reforms are the repealing of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and Public Order and Security Act.
Six new independent television stations have been licensed to operate, and the opening of the airwaves has been hailed as a crucial step towards promoting transparency.
President Mnangagwa has championed the implementation of several reforms in areas such as security, the economy, media and justice delivery and this has not gone unnoticed.
Recently, an historic agreement was signed between the Government and white former commercial farmers for compensation for improvements on the land from which they were evicted after occupation in the 1890s.