SOUTH Africa says it has given Zimbabwe three weeks to roll back a ban imposed on imports from that country ahead of a meeting of regional ministers later this month.
This follows a meeting between Zimbabwe’s minister of Industry and Trade, Mike Bimha and his South African counterpart, Rob Davies in Pretoria on Thursday.
On June 20, Zimbabwe banned the import of hundreds of items from its southern neighbour to reign in its ballooning trade deficit – $3,3 billion in 2015 – to and shore up local manufacturers.
The list included furniture, baked beans, potato crisps, cereals, bottled water, mayonnaise, salad cream, peanut butter, jams, maheu, canned fruits and vegetables, pizza base, yoghurts, flavoured milks, dairy juice blends, ice-creams, cultured milk and cheese.
The ban has been widely criticized, and sparked demonstrations and the burning down of a government warehouse in Beitbridge, a border town leading into South Africa.
But Davies told South African media on Friday that Zimbabwe should have followed a process under the Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocol that sets out procedural requirements before cutting trade ties.
The SADC protocol, which regulates interstate trade, allows a member country to adopt protection measures if it demonstrates that its industries are under distress.
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 in a report by Timeslive.
South Africa is Zimbabwe’s largest trade partner, accounting for about 70 percent of imported goods in the southern African country and over 60 percent of its total trade, official figures show.
The two countries have to resolve the impasse before a meeting of SADC trade ministers in Botswana on August 24.
Bimha, who addressed journalists in Harare on Friday morning, said South Africa had asked Zimbabwe to lower import duty and surtax levied on o112 products imported from that country.
“There are number of products on which we have applied duty and surtax so in our recent meeting they (South Africa) submitted a list of 112 products that they say they would want us to consider in terms of duty and surtax and we told them that we should be able to make a response in 2 weeks’ time,” he said.
Bimha said government’s decision to control imports through Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 would allow to resuscitate the country’s ailing manufacturing sector.