May 31, 2006, THE POST

Zambia’s membership in regional communities (RECs) is a hindrance to the manufacturing sector, commerce deputy minister Eugene Appel has admitted.

Appel said though RECs were beneficial if all members related at an equal level, Zambia’s experience has so far not been impressive.

“To a great extent, being a member of these trade groupings will hinder growth of manufacturing sector in Zambia, this is one of the problems we are facing, but under these groupings, we cannot restrict trade,” Appel said.

“We also realise that we need to create room for the local industries to grow, which also raises the need to regulate the inflow of imports onto the local markets. We are studying that issue now and a number of options are being considered.”

He said the ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry (MCTI) was exploring ways of stemming the tide of imported products by helping local manufacturers produce high quality goods.

To this effect, Appel said Zambia has put up restrictive tariffs under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) but had these tariffs waived on Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) trade agreements.

This has led to huge imports of goods produced at a much lower cost from the COMESA and SADC regions, much to the chagrin of local producers.

And Appel said Zambia should exploit its opportunities to supply goods to international markets such as the United States under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) initiative.

“Unless you have a people who have a capacity to produce for international exports, we will continue to complain about these trade issues. We need to exploit our opportunities because at the moment, we are not supplying the whole market,” he said.

Last week, the Consumer Unity and Trust Society African Resource Centre said the AGOA initiative was not much of a benefit to the Zambian economy, citing strict standardization measures as a major hindrance for fair trade between African countries and the US.