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Zimbabwe is an original signatory to the GATT, with membership dating from 11 July 1948. The country played an effective role in the Uruguay Round negotiations by virtue of its presence in Geneva. Its principle objective was to ensure that agriculture was brought securely into the GATT. During the Round, Zimbabwe expressed its commitment to the multilateral system, to the strengthening of GATT rules, and to the improvement of the functioning of the GATT system. It welcomed improved rules in the areas of subsidies, safeguards, anti-dumping and customs valuation.

The workshop held jointly by ZimTrade, Lotru and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung focused on raising Zimbabwe’s WTO concerns and interests from all stakeholders as a run-up to the WTO Seattle Ministerial Meeting held from 30 November to 4 December 1999. While it was obvious from the discussions that the stakeholders, primarily the private business sector, had little information on the WTO it was overwhelmingly agreed that Zimbabwe’s country delegation to Seattle should speak with one voice. The composition of the delegation should fully reflect the cross-institutional and stakeholder participation in the country.

Some of the major highlights of the workshop were:

  • Through the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Zimbabwe had set-up an Intersectorial Committee on WTO whose membership was open to all stakeholders in the national economy

  • The Seattle Conference was just an event, the key challenge for Zimbabwe was addressing the process up to Seattle and the negotiations during the post-Seattle-era.

  • Participants expressed concern at a possible overload of the WTO negotiations by an influx of new issues on the agenda. There were enough ingredients for the Seattle Conference to draw up a menu for WTO’s work programme for a few more years.

  • The country delegation’s interest in Seattle should be to seek measures to stabilise markets and manage economic risk better through market instruments, while seeking better access into developed country markets.

  • The state of standardisation and conformity assessment activities world-wide is confusing as there is so much going on at regional and international levels resulting in duplication.

  • Participants agreed that there was lack of coherence in trying to meet the demands of the IMF and WB under structural adjustment programmes, and availing subsidies to infant industries, etc. under the WTO Provisions.

  • There was an urgent need not to include the Social Clause into the WTO – should not allow workers to be treated as a trade instrument. Global labour issues should be left to the ILO.

  • In a concerted effort to improve communication between the Zimbabwe Embassy in Switzerland and Zimbabwe, the private sector pledged to periodically offer air-tickets for Geneva-based officials to jet home to brief the government and business community on on-going WTO discussions.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | August 2001

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