THE Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) says Zambia’s trade openness is ranked among the highest in the region but the country needs to improve on service sector to increase earnings.
COMESA secretary general Sindiso Ngwenya said since the launch of the COMESA free-trade area (FTA) in 2000, Zambia earns between US$6 and US$10 for every US dollar spent on imports from other member countries, mostly on merchandise trade.
He said the country can do even better if it improved its performance in the services sector.
Mr Ngwenya said this when he appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Economic Affairs in Lusaka on Monday.
He said Zambia’s trade openness is ranked among the highest in the COMESA and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) regions.
He said Zambia’s participation in the COMESA and SADC FTA offers Zambian products a larger market of over 400 million consumers beyond the borders of the country.
“Most of Zambia’s exports to Kenya, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Malawi and nine other countries in the COMESA enjoy duty-free entry if they meet the rules of origin. Most Zambian products are able to compete favourably with similar products manufactured by other regional producers,” he said.
According to the World Trade Organisation, rules of origin are the criteria used to determine the national source of a product for purposes of international trade.
Mr Ngwenya cited products such as power transmission and telecommunication cables made from copper or aluminium; agricultural products including cereals, sugar, tea, coffee and tobacco as competitive.
Other competitive local products include cement and lime, chemical products such as paints and edible oils.
He said Government needs to develop and adopt a comprehensive national trade strategy covering both merchandise and services trade for Zambia’s trade performance to have a direct and greater positive impact on the realisation of the Vision 2030.
Mr Ngwenya said the national trade strategy should include improving on competitiveness of Zambian products locally and abroad and securing preferential market access in strategic regional and international markets both in goods and services.
He said there is need to ensure that Zambia plays a pivotal and influential role in regional and international trade arrangements to ensure that overall trade contributes to a higher gross national income per capita for the country.
He said there is need to create an environment for new industries to spring up, add-value and diversify the products for export.