Thank you, Chair. The United States is pleased to welcome the delegation of Zimbabwe to this Trade Policy Review. We welcome the Secretariat and Government Reports and appreciate the opportunity to gain a clearer sense of the changes to Zimbabwe’s trade and investment policies since its last review in 2011.
As was the case in 2011, Zimbabwe has significant economic potential. The country has abundant natural resources, an educated workforce, dynamic young entrepreneurs, internationally recognized tourist attractions, extensive wildlife, and a strong agricultural base. Both reports for this TPR highlight the reforms underway in Zimbabwe since 2011 as it seeks to leverage trade as a means to stimulate greater economic growth and development. We support these undertakings with the expectation that they advance a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, without creating additional barriers.
However, numerous obstacles undermine Zimbabwe’s efforts to increase trade and harness its benefits, thereby impeding the country’s sustainable development. Land and property ownership rights remain unclear in Zimbabwe. The country’s physical infrastructure, once one of the best on the continent, remains operable but has deteriorated significantly over the last two decades due to lack of investment. There has also been a large and continued contraction in employment in the formal economy. These obstacles are also a main reason why Zimbabwe has struggled to attract FDI during the past two decades.
While Zimbabwe has made some improvements, we agree with the Secretariat Report that there is significant scope for Zimbabwe to implement broader economic reforms and improve the business environment. Underscoring this need, the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business rankings placed Zimbabwe 140 out of 190 countries. In May 2019, Zimbabwe began an IMF Staff-Monitored Program to support the implementation of an ambitious economic reform agenda, which we viewed as a positive development. However, by February 2020 the IMF reported the program was “off track.” We would appreciate hearing Zimbabwe’s plan on getting the program back on track.
Zimbabwe is an original WTO Member, having been a GATT contracting party. However, Zimbabwe has not yet incorporated the WTO Agreement into domestic law by passing enabling legislation. We ask Zimbabwe during this TPR to provide a timeline for passing such legislation. It is not clear that the WTO Agreement prevails in a matter in which domestic law is not consistent with the WTO Agreement. In addition, while we commend Zimbabwe for ratifying the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), we ask Zimbabwe to provide further information on its plans to fulfill certain obligations.
We also seek more transparency in Zimbabwe’s trade policies. For example, the Secretariat notes that as of this year, Zimbabwe has not notified the Interim European Partnership Agreement (EPA), or any underlying measures associated with the EPA to either the SPS or the TBT Committees. In fact, since 1995, Zimbabwe has notified only five SPS measures. Moreover, Zimbabwe has yet to notify to the Committee on Import Licensing Procedures several procedures related to the Animal Health (Import) Regulation of 1989 and the “Grain Marketing Act”. Nor has it notified pertinent legislation to the WTO Committees on Safeguards and Customs Valuation. We ask Zimbabwe to fulfill its transparency obligations and notify relevant measures and regulations in a timely manner.
The United States expresses serious concerns that, according to the Secretariat Report, Zimbabwe’s applied MFN tariff rate exceeds the bound rate for at least 61 tariff lines, and by as much as 60 percentage points. We ask Zimbabwe to specify during this TPR when and how it will rectify this matter. The Secretariat Report also notes that Zimbabwe charges a surtax of 25 percent on imports of numerous products; we ask Zimbabwe to confirm that this surtax is consistent with Zimbabwe’s bound tariff schedule.
In addition to the issues raised here today, the United States has submitted advanced written questions in areas such as customs procedures, standards, and food safety. We received some answers overnight and look forward to reviewing them; we appreciate Zimbabwe’s effort to address our concerns.
To conclude, as both President Trump and Ambassador Robert Lighthizer have affirmed, the United States sees great potential in strengthening its trade and economic relationship with the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. We stand ready to engage and work with Zimbabwe toward establishing a more transparent and market-oriented trade regime, consistent with its obligations.
We look forward to our dialogue with the government, both within the WTO as well as on a bilateral basis.