Civil society condemns economic liberalisation

Staff Writer

LOCAL civil society organisations have condemned economic liberalisation saying it undermined national industries and institutions.



, sans-serif”>In a statement released at the end of a three-day workshop last week, participants said liberalisation had far-reaching implications on national economies.


Organised by the Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute in conjunction with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the workshop was on globalisation and bilateral and multilateral trade issues.

It drew participants from business, academia, labour and students.


It was aimed at reviewing post-Cancun developments, especially negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Economic Partnership Agreements with the European Union.


“We note that these have got far-reaching implications on national economies, people’s livelihoods and the role of the state as a provider of basic social services: health, education, water, transport, food,” the statement said.


“There is need to protect local infant industries and all other established industries from unfair competition brought about by liberalisation.”


The statement said Africa was under siege and experiencing re-colonisation through corporate-led globalisation championed by economic and financial institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the WTO.


Civil societies said the WTO had emerged as one of the most powerful and influential international institutions since its establishment in 1995 and this had set the legal framework for multilateral rules not only on strictly trade issues but also with regard to other dimensions such as services, intellectual property and agriculture.


“The interests of the WTO do not only lie on its regulation and monitoring of trade agreements between and amongst member countries, but also on the fact that its agenda extends into domestic policy by forcing national policies to be WTO-compliant,” said the statement.


The civil societies said such developments and the current Economic Partnership Agreements negotiations between the EU and Africa had negative implications on national economies.


“For Africa and Zimbabwe in particular, the notion that ‘people first before profits’ should be the basis on which the country must negotiate,” the statement said.


The civil societies acknowledged that agriculture, which is one of the issues at the centre of controversy at the WTO negotiations, was crucial for developing countries.


In Zimbabwe, for instance, the sector used to contribute 17% to the country’s gross domestic product, employ 26% of the total labour force and contribute 33% to foreign currency earnings before the land reform exercise.

Civil society organisations called for the strengthening of trade negotiators’ capacity to fully analyse the implications of regional and multilateral trade agreements and work out holistic strategies.


“This must include all stakeholders, including the private sector, civil society organisations, government officials, the media and workers’ representatives,” the statement said.


Meanwhile preparations for trade negotiation with the European Union have gathered momentum.


businessdigest heard that the Trade Centre, a local NGO, held a workshop on negotiating skills. Held a fortnight ago, the workshop drew participants from ministries of Agriculture, Foreign affairs, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) and the Confederation of Zimbabwe industries (CZI).