Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism plans to review the country’s bilateral, regional and multilateral agreements to ascertain whether they are beneficial or not.
The ministry’s spokesperson Mayeso Msokera confirmed about the exercise in an interview on Monday. This follows a hint by Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Joseph Mwanamvekha about such as move.
“Renegotiating agreements is an important process as it allows us to determine what is working well and what is not working in the agreement,” he said.
Currently, Malawi is a signatory and beneficiary of several bilateral and multilateral trade agreements.
Since independence in 1964, the country has been signing trade agreements with other countries at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels to provide increased market access to boost exports.
For instance, goods made in Malawi enjoy preferential market access in regional and international markets under bilateral and multilateral trade agreements with the European Union (EU), the United States of America (USA), 21 Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) countries and 16 Southern African Development Community (Sadc) countries.
Malawi also enjoys preferential market access in developed countries under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), a US trade programme that provides preferential duty-free entry of up to 4 800 products from 129 countries, including Malawi.
Said Msokera: “We need to ascertain if the agreements are providing significant trade opportunities and benefits to the economy or not.
“The focus is mostly on building upon what is working well within the agreements and renegotiating what may be identified as unfair trade deals.”
He said the ministry is also focusing on interventions that would contribute towards building the productive capacity of the domestic economy to enhance the country’s international competitiveness.
Malawi’s trade partners are mostly exporting more to Malawi than what Malawi exports, a situation which widens the trade gap or the gap between imports and exports.
During the final pre-budget consultation meeting in Lilongwe, Mwanamvekha said Malawi has an extensive network of trade agreements, some of which are operational, while others are not or are still under negotiation.
A recent report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca) exposed Malawi’s decimal trade performance compared to its neighbours. Data from International Trade Centre (ITC) in 2018 showed that Malawi’s total exports were valued at $957 million (about K718 billion), which is worse than the $1.2 billion (about K900 billion) the country earned in export revenue in 2012.