ZIM can regain its competitiveness if the country continued to diversify its export profile to Europe and produced products that met European standards, The European Union Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Phillipe Van Damme has said.
Speaking in an interview on the sidelines of a media reception at the European Union Delegation offices in Harare on Thursday night, Van Damme said trade between the EU and Zimbabwe had been increasing steadily over the years, although there was a slight drop in exports from Zimbabwe to Europe due to a drop in the export of diamonds, tobacco and sugarcane.
“But the interesting part is that this has been compensated to a large extent by diversification of the export profile of Zimbabwe to Europe. There has been a very significant increase in the export of horticulture products, of leather products, citrus products, tea and all the high value agricultural products.
“I think that is a signal of hope, which means that indeed this economy can again gain its competitiveness in the European markets,” he said.
Van Damme said the diversification of exports by Zimbabwe was extremely helpful, adding that it was the priority of the EU member states this year and the coming years to develop trade relations with Zimbabwe.
He, however, warned that discord within government over the country’s indigenisation laws could stifle investment in the country, saying the situation at the moment was very confusing.
He said it was up to the investors and individual member states to decide, once consultations on the controversial law were concluded, whether the environment would be conducive for investment.
“I don’t personally have to be happy with the Indigenisation laws, it is the investors who have to be happy. In the meantime the only thing I can say of course is that the consultation process has been launched in a very confusing environment and, as you know, investors don’t like confusion and uncertainty and it is regrettable, but I hope that the final result will be clear and that the government will speak with one voice so that we have a framework which has to be judged by the private sector,” he said.
Van Damme also warned that the human rights situation in the country, especially the issue of the disappearance of human rights activist, Itai Dzamara, as well as the issue of Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPA) protected farms could have negative
implications for the country’s quest to lure investors.
“We have raised concern over the issue of Itai Dzamara and we still hope that the truth will be revealed.
I know incidences of human rights abuse happen everywhere in the world, but what is important is how the government responds to this incident and so we encourage the government to make sure that the rule of law is fully respected because it affects the perception some people may have about Zimbabwe,” he said. – ANA