Trade & industry minister Rob Davies. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Trade & industry minister Rob Davies. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

The South African government has raised concerns over more than 100 tariff lines in Zimbabwe’s laws which act as barriers to trade between the two countries.

In an interview on the sidelines of the SA-Zimbabwe binational commission in Harare, trade & industry minister Rob Davies told Business Day the issue was one of the areas of disagreement in the talks.

President Cyril Ramaphosa mentioned the barriers to trade in his opening remarks to the commission, saying: “There are good prospects for both of our countries but there is also a need to ensure ease of doing business and elimination of trade barriers.”

Davies said SA was concerned that Zimbabwe continued to impose restrictions on some of its products. This was  despite Zimbabwe lifting controversial legislation, called Statutory Instrument 64 (SI64), that governed the tariffs. 

Trade between the two countries is heavily tilted in favour of SA which exported goods worth more than R30.8bn to Zimbabwe in 2018, according to figures released by the presidency. Exports to SA were worth just R3.6bn.

“Statutory Instrument 64 was lifted but we are still concerned about  the current laws which continue to restrict imports from SA. Obviously this is against Sadc protocols on trade," said Davies.

According to minutes of the summit, seen by Business Day, Harare has asked for a waiver on the regional protocols.

“In their laws, there are still 112 tariff lines where we have issues that make it difficult to get products from SA into Zimbabwe. We discussed some of these issues and we were able to strike a deal to do away with some of the issues, 29 to be exact," Davies said. "But the majority of our concerns still remain."

Davies said during closed meetings SA had complained that Zimbabwe was restricting some products that it did not have the capacity to produce.

He said that while SA understood Zimbabwe’s determination to protect its own industries from stiff competition from South African companies it had issues with products that are in short supply in that country.

Zimbabwean industries are not producing enough for the people who have no other choice but to buy such products from SA, he said.

Many Zimbabweans import basic commodities from SA amid shortages of cooking oil, sugar and beverages among other products.

Zimbabwe also has restrictions on the importation of agricultural and dairy products. “We have set up teams from both countries so that we continue these engagements and create a platform for raising concerns.

“When it introduced its import restrictions, Zimbabwe said this was a temporary move and would be phased out. So what this means is that reviews have to be carried out periodically," Davies said.

He also said Zimbabwe had proposed talks on a special textile and clothing trade agreement with SA.