Sunday, June 05, 2016

The Future of the ACP Forum
Hon. Mike Bimha
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

On May 31, 2016; the Summit of Heads of State and Government from the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of nations opened in Papua New Guinea.

In between summits, the Council of Ministers meet to discuss various issues, but the Summit is convened after every two years when Heads of State and Government mainly consider the ministers’ recommendations.

So the main thrust between this Summit and the previous one has been on the future of the ACP forum.

There was a resolution to find a group of eminent people to collect views on this critical matter.

That group was chaired by Nigeria’s former leader, President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Now the group produced a report which was tabled before a committee of ambassadors for consideration.

Then there was a meeting of African trade ministers who also went through this report, examining the comments by the committee of ambassadors.

The ministers made recommendations.

So, all these recommendations were tabled before the Heads of State and Government meeting in Papua New Guinea.

A recommendation that stuck out was the ACP’s key focus areas.

Three such areas were identified:
1. Industrialisation and investment
2. Development
3. Politics and advocacy.

The general sentiment was that these are the areas of focus so that we do not look at different broad areas.

A number of areas that we should not venture into were also identified.

One of the ACP’s areas of interest is partnership with the European Union. It was proposed that the group should also consider emerging blocs like the Brics rather than look at the EU alone.

Delegates reasoned that the EU is no longer what it used to be, it’s now bigger and has its own problems; therefore, we should spread our tentacles.

These recommendations were discussed and all the Heads of State and Government were in agreement.

President Mugabe suggested that “while we support (the report), while we thank them for the work done, (we) will need more time to study it and ensure that we understand it and be able to make great input”.

Other leaders endorsed President Mugabe’s intervention.

The meeting also received reports on the Tripartite Free Trade Area and Continental Free Trade Area; but, again, it’s work in progress.

Much of the work looked at the ACP’s future.

We believe the ACP will focus more on industrialisation, which we will ascribe to in terms of Zim-Asset.

As a country, we should also subscribe to Sadc’s Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap.

These are things we are already involved in, and as we discuss with other African countries, we can add our input in those areas.

Zimbabwe strongly believes in promoting intra-Africa trade because the majority of ACP members are African.

So, whatever we do, we are strengthening our conglomeration within Africa, and the ACP will be there to help see whatever we are already doing in terms of regional integration.

We must make use of our numerical advantage in our negotiations with the EU.

One of the issues discussed was progress on our economic partnership agreements with Europe.

Europe has given all groups up to October 2016 to agree, and we are saying, “No, Europe must not make unilateral declarations, but negotiate with us as equal partners”.

We are applying force, we are not letting Europe do what it wants.

We have to negotiate as equal partners, we have even said we want to analyse whether regions that agreed are benefiting or it’s Europe that is benefiting.

Honourable Mike Bimha is the Minister of Industry and Commerce. He shared these views with The Sunday Mail’s Livingstone Marufu on his return from Papua New Guinea.

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