Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE is still awaiting technical input from Sadc before addressing the request by South Africa for a phase down of certain duties and surcharges on selected imports into the country.
South Africa requested Harare to reduce/remove surcharges covered, which it felt violated the Sadc trade protocol of 2008, but was willing to have Zimbabwe exempted where evidence existed that removing the charges threatened its producers.
Pretoria had reportedly requested for Zimbabwe to justify surcharges covered under 112 out of a total of 1 000 tariff lines. Pretoria feels Zimbabwe has been in breach of the rules since 2012.
Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Mike Bimha said in an interview that Zimbabwe had written to the regional body and officially made the request for assistance to be able to apply for derogation.
Derogation (in trade) relates to non application of a rule or reduction of its stringency for specific periods or in specific cases. According to South Africa, the surcharges disadvantage exports from the region compared to imports from other markets.
Zimbabwe intends to apply for derogation from Sadc on full 112 tariff lines. In terms of the Sadc trade protocol, there is a provision for doing it, but Harare said would take up to half a year to complete the paper work if it did the process on its own.
“In our last discussions at Sadc, in Swaziland, we made a commitment that Zimbabwe would want to be able to come up with the list of products that we want to apply for derogation.
“There is a particular way of putting the data together and we said we wanted to enhance our capacity to do so, and made a request to get the Sadc secretariat to assist with that capacity.
“They (Sadc) promised to do that, we have written officially to the Sadc secretariat to avail us that resource and we are still waiting.”
The request follows the Sadc trade protocol, which came into force in 2008. Calls by Pretoria for the tariff phase down became louder after Government introduced measures which restrict importation of products that can be manufactured locally.
But in terms of measures taken by Zimbabwe under Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, Minister Bimha said Pretoria now fully understands the rationale behind the decision of Government, but would respond to other tariff issues under the Sadc trade protocol.
He said the work that needs to be done entails more than just considering the tariff phase down request on listed products, and entails a lot of technical work, which Government was working on.
Minister Bimha said Zimbabwe needed to clinically look at each product, before exempting them from prescribed charges. Pretoria wanted outright removal of the charges if possible.
Zimbabwe has other trade issues with Pretoria, which it has requested its trade partner to address.
This relates to the requirement for Zimbabwe’s pharmaceutical exports to enter South Africa by air through the OR Tambo International Airport.