TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

US Move On Agoa Set To Boost Investment

Saturday, 29 November 2003

Source: The Post (Lusaka)

Trade liberalisation is not an end in itself, commerce, trade and industry minister Dipak Patel has said.

In a speech read for him by his deputy Eugene Appel at the opening of the 16th Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) intergovernmental committee of experts in Lusaka yesterday, Patel said trade liberalisation must be looked at as a means to sustainable development through investment.

Patel said it was encouraging that national and regional consultations were undertaken towards the creation of a COMESA Common Investment Area aimed at realising the key elements for domestic, regional and foreign direct investment.

He also noted that liberalisation of trade in goods could only be meaningful if only it was matched with trade in services.

"The region could therefore derive economic benefits from reforms in sectors such as financial services, banking, insurance, telecommunications, transport and distribution which may be viewed as infrastructural backbones of our economies," he said.

Patel said he looked forward to the conclusion of the framework strategy for service liberalisation in order to contribute to trade expansion in the region.

He noted that since the advent of the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), eligible member states had recorded high exports to the US market particularly in the textile industry.

Patel said he was happy that COMESA had continuously brought to the attention of the US government the need to extend eligibility to all member states because of the threat of the expiry of multi-fibre agreement, as well as making AGOA contractual.

He said the message should be carried again to the Washington DC meeting early next month.

Patel emphasized the fact that globalisation was fast affecting the way and manner in which nations conducted their business.

He said the European Union was expanding its membership to 26 countries while 34 countries in the Americas were moving towards a free trade area with a combined gross domestic products (GDP) of US $14 trillion.

Patel further noted that the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) was discussing with China to form a free trade area.

"Africa and COMESA for that matter should borrow a leaf from this if we are to be integrated into the global economy and avoid being further marginalized," he said.

And Patel said he was happy to note that since the launch of the COMESA Free Trade Area (FTA) in 2000, steady progress had been made towards the consolidation of the FTA.

He disclosed that Zambia had managed to increase on exports of tobacco from US $7.6 million in 2000 to US $11.7 million in 2002.

Patel further noted that Zambia had increased its exports in cement, sugar, cotton yarn and refined copper products.

During the same meeting, COMESA Secretary General Erastus Mwencha reported that the FTA has continued to grow in strength and it was expected that new members would be joining by January next year.

Mwencha said the region was benefiting in a number of ways through the implementation of the FTA.

He said on the economic front, there was a rise in intra-regional trade, especially in goods such as sugar, maize, tea, steel coils and cooking oil.

Mwencha admitted that some of the trade had given rise to queries and disputes, mainly concerning sources of origin.

But Mwencha said this was not abnormal in any trade arrangement.

However, Mwencha advised that normal channels should be followed in complaining as opposed to resorting to unorthodox ways such as rushing to the press.

"It is an unfortunate fact that those who are now making money by taking advantage of the improved market access opportunities made available by the COMESA FTA will keep quiet and continue to make money," he said.

"They will not waste their time by going to the press to say how well they are doing. But those who are less efficient and those who have profited, at the expense of consumers, from past inefficiencies and price distortions are the ones who make the most noise."

But Mwencha said if indeed the complaints were genuine, they should follow the simple procedures by presenting the case to the COMESA council rather than rushing to the press.

He said so far, it was clear that the FTA had not only boosted the economy of the region but also assisted in building trade negotiation capacities of the region.

Mwencha said the FTA had also given a clear understanding of the economies and production structures of neighbouring countries.

Latest AGOA Trade Data on

Click here to view a sector profile of Zambia’s bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated into total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

For more about AGOA click here .

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include:

  • All Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Overview

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.