Britain clears up sanctions lie

mark_canningHARARE - The key to the removal of restrictive measures against Zanu (PF) officials is to fully implement the commitments to reform they agreed to in the Global Political Agreement (GPA), according to British ambassador, Mark Canning (pictured).

He added that the targeted measures did not affect the economy, trade or business. Canning clarified that the EU measures imposed restrictions on 203 key figures of President Mugabe’s regime involved in the violence and human rights abuses. The measures also affected 40 companies associated with these individuals and their sources of finance, he said.

“They do not hurt ordinary Zimbabweans,” Ambassador Canning said. “Indeed, levels of British aid – US$100 million last year – to ordinary Zimbabweans have never been higher. Zimbabwe has always enjoyed a balance of trade surplus in its trade with the EU, despite claims that the sanctions were hurting trade. The EU is also a major donor for humanitarian assistance.

Milibands bloop

Zanu (PF) this week stepped up calls for the removal of what it calls “sanctions”, which Mugabe claims have hurt the economy. This rides on tactless remarks made by British foreign secretary, David Miliband, that the UK government would be guided by advice from Prime Minister Tsvangirais party on the issue.

Zanu (PF) chairman, Simon Khaya Moyo, pouncing on the controversial remarks by Milliband, said the MDC could no longer claim it had no influence over the issue and must now call for the removal of the sanctions. Moyo said the declared and undeclared sanctions were affecting the country because Zimbabwe was not getting lines of credit and companies were being forced to close.

Canning, however, stated that nothing could be further from the truth. Diplomatic sources told The Zimbabwean that trade relations had never been the subject of sanctions. “The EU as a bloc remains one of Zimbabwe’s major trading partners,” said a senior Western diplomat. “Its pie in the sky that sanctions are hurting the Zimbabwean economy.” Exports to the EU currently account for about 36 per cent of the countrys total exports and cover both traditional and non-traditional product lines.

Major agricultural export products from Zimbabwe to the EU are tobacco, cotton, meat products, tree plants, and cut flowers. Zimbabwe has also benefited from the STABEX fund for supporting export earnings owing to a decline in prices of commodity exports.

Zims trade surplus

According to Keith Scott, first secretary Political/Communications Affairs in the British embassy in Harare, UK exports to Zimbabwe between January and October 2009 were 15 million. Zimbabwe exported to UK between January and October 2009 49 million worth of goods. In 2008 UK exports to Zimbabwe were 21 million and Zim exports to UK in 2008 were 37 million.

“Zimbabwe actually runs a trade surplus with the UK,” Scott said. Another diplomatic source said the current diplomatic row between Harare and the EU had culminated in the imposition of legitimate smart sanctions based on the ACP-EU Cotonou Agreement.

“The sanctions have not translated into preference erosion for Zimbabwes goods in the EU market, hell no,” said the diplomat. “Since the EU is Zimbabwes main market especially for agricultural products, the measures have not altered the preference schedule or caused any serious deterioration in export market access for the country.

Britains own judgement

Meanwhile, Canning said Britain would make its own judgements whether the targeted measures must be removed or not, and did not need to take any advice from the MDC as claimed by Zanu (PF) officials.

As the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, made clear in Parliament on 19 January, the most important factor influencing the United Kingdom’s views on lifting EU restrictive measures will be evidence of actual change and reform on the ground in Zimbabwe,” Canning said. “These are not MDC-T measures.

These are not Zanu (PF) measures. They are the EUs, and we will make our own judgements as to when they should be reinforced or eased. But the key to having restrictive measures eased, or lifted, is for those in Zimbabwe who are currently resisting progress to implement the commitments to reform they agreed to in the Global Political Agreement (GPA).”

Now that there is a deadlock in full implementation of a power-sharing pact, Mugabe’s party is raising calls for the targeted sanctions to be lifted, claiming they were part of commitments the MDC made in the power-sharing agreement. Zanu (PF) has always insisted that the sanctions were imposed at the instigation of the MDC and is demanding that the party calls for their removal, saying failure would result in no movement on outstanding issues.

Prime Minister Tsvangirais party, however, maintain they have no involvement in the measures and says the onus was on a special Cabinet committee headed by Foreign minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi to have the measures removed.

Professor Eliphas Mukonoweshuro, the MDC’s international relations chief, said: “What Zanu (PF) should be asking is why this committee is not meeting as expected.” Mumbengegwi was not immediately available for comment.

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