Zambian businesses have urged their government to consider increasing import taxes on goods from Zimbabwe to create a level playing field for trade.
This was after Zimbabwe recently made an ill-advised move to “restrict trade” as part of strategies to support the development of local industries and relieve pressure brought on by “economic sanctions”.
However, economic experts said the Mike Bimha-instituted measures, which include import bans, surcharges, increases in duties, the requirement for import permits and other forms of restrictions, had negative implications for intra-regional trade.
Zambia Association of Manufactures (Zam) president Rosetta Chabala said the adverse effect of Zimbabwe’s imports ban could not be underestimated.
“There are some Zambian companies that were exporting goods in excess of $20 million and are now averaging $10 million and that becomes a big problem for these companies. Government should also increase tax. Why should we be nice when they are not nice to us? Impose taxes on products coming from Zimbabwe,” she told Zambian media.
Chabala noted that Zimbabwe’s import ban decision was not only detrimental to regional unity but also to international trade.
“If they (Zimbabwe) cannot retract on that, I think it’s time our government also retaliate because we cannot be accepting their products here while they are imposing certain restrictions on the imports in their country,” she said.
The latest development comes after South Africa last week said it wants Zimbabwe to reverse a decision to ban imports of goods from the continent’s most-industrialised economy.
“On behalf of the South African government, Trade and Industry minister Rob Davies has been engaging the Zimbabwean government bilaterally — and through the Sadc structures — to find an amicable solution that is in accordance with Zimbabwe’s obligations of the Sadc protocol on trade, while at the same time being sensitive to Zimbabwe’s industrial development and balance-of-payments challenges,” South Africa’s department of Trade spokesperson Sidwell Medupe said.
Zimbabwe was early this month hit by a crippling civil servants’ strike and violent protests over the country’s decision to ban imports such as cosmetics, cereals, coffee creamer, mayonnaise, cheese, canned fruits and vegetables, second-hand tyres, iron and steel products, furniture and woven cotton fabrics.
About one million Zimbabweans cross the Beitbridge border post on buses and cars every month buying imports from South Africa.
Economist Vince Musewe said Zimbabwe did not do its homework before implementing the controversial economic policy.
“The sudden control of imports overnight without adequate notice always leads to the immediate emergence of a black market, especially where local demand for a particular product is so high and we do not have the local capacity to fulfil that need,” he said.
“As a country we should rather look at banning the importation of maize and producing it here ourselves, which would be a more meaningful approach with a more positive effect on our trade deficit. But again we need to plan that properly,” Musewe added.