Zim-China trade over $1bn in 2017

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Tawanda Musarurwa
Zimbabwe’s trade with China was just above $1 billion last year, and there is need to put in place measures to increase economic activities between the two countries, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to China Paul Chikawa has said.

Ambassador Chikawa said the two countries have historical strong bilateral ties, and this should be reflected in the level of economic activities.

“There is a neighbouring country that is pushing trade (with China) to the tune of $35 billion, and we are just above $1 billion.

“We need to assert our rights and make sure that we are converting the potential to the benefit of the people,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the just ended 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) last week.

Zimbabwe’s exports to China currently dominate trade between the two countries, with United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade showing that China’s exports to Zimbabwe stood at $443, 82 million in 2017.

The same database shows that Zimbabwe’s exports to China amounted to $882,5 million in 2016.

Tobacco dominates Zim exports to China
Tobacco is the single largest export item from Zimbabwe to China and by some counts this contributes anything up to more than 90 percent of the country’s exports to China.

In addition, we also export minerals and other agricultural produce but in small quantities. Chrome is one such mineral that Zimbabwe exports to China.

The Ambassador said Government is working to diversify trade between the two countries.

“Recognising the fact that tobacco is preponderantly dominant in the trade figures, both Zimbabwe and China are working at diversifying and broadening our trade portfolio.

“In this regard, we are making great progress to export our citrus fruits to China. Already, we are also exporting some horticultural produce; namely flowers into some parts of China. The figures are, however, still low but the potential for growth is huge,” he said.

The citrus deal
One of the major bilateral agreements that was agreed between President Mnangagwa and Chinese president Xi Jinping last week was proposed deal to increase Zimbabwe’s citrus exports into the Chinese market. It has potential to significantly increase Zimbabwe’s exports to China, as attested to by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo recently.

“The (other) agreement was to do with the commitment by the China side to import citrus fruits from Zimbabwe. The obligation will obviously remain with our producers here in Zimbabwe to be able to generate adequate produce which should satisfy the demand of China.

“One of the issues that was discussed was a possibility of reverse investment integration, where the market itself, which is the Chinese would come back here and support the producers in order to create capacity of products to be exported into China. We already have the precedence of contract farming in the tobacco sector,” said Minister Moyo.

Zimbabwe’s trade ties with China can also benefit from the trade facilitation facility, which is part of the $60 billion package for African countries announced by President Xi. It aims to ensure that there is increased trade volumes between China and Africa going forward.

“Last year trade between China and Africa was $170 billion, but of that $170 billion we as Zimbabwe are not getting as much as we can,” said Ambassador Chikawa.

“It is our well-considered view that China and Zimbabwe can work together on the whole value chain to promote production, value addition and exportation of several goods and resources to China and elsewhere on the basis of complimentary and mutual benefits. To this end the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and FOCAC are platforms that can and should be used to promote this. For instance, at the just-ended 3rd FOCAC Summit, His Excellency President Xi unveiled a $5 billion fund to promote African exports to China.

“This is an opportunity to secure funding to support our export led production while eyeing the Chinese market. This point resonates very well with China’s willingness to open its market to appropriate imports as evidenced by the upcoming November 2018 Shanghai China Import Expo.”

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