TRADE Minister Joshua Setipa is optimistic that the operationalisation of the Economic Cooperation Agreement (ECA) with Turkey will bear fruit despite the unstable political environments the two countries are currently grappling with.
Lesotho is set for a snap election on 3 June 2017, the third in just five years, follows the dissolution of parliament on 1 March by His Majesty King Letsie 111 on the advice of Prime Minster Pakalitha Mosisili after the latter suffered a crushing no confidence vote in parliament last month.
Turkey, on the other hand, is heading for referendum on 17 April to vote on a set of 18 proposed constitutional amendments. This comes after two general elections in 2015 and a failed coup attempt in July 2016.
All these developments could have a bearing on the bi-lateral agreement the two countries signed during last November’s 2016 Turkey- Africa Economic and Business Forum.
The agreement is part of efforts by Lesotho’s government to find key partners to help the country pursue a range of economic objectives including access to markets for its products, developing standardisation infrastructure, developing the small business sector especially the leather and mohair industries.
It was announced at the time of the signing that a trade delegation from Turkey would visit Lesotho in the first quarter of 2017 to take the agreement forward but that is yet to materialise with less than two weeks to go before the month ends.
Minister Setipa this week told the Lesotho Times that they would have to wait until after the elections and referendum.
“So far there is nothing much that has happened on the agreement,” Minister Setipa said, adding, “And that is mainly because Turkey is dealing with a lot at the moment as they are preparing for a referendum”.
“So, the Turkish government has asked for more time until after their referendum.”
He allayed fears that the political situation in Lesotho would affect the deal, saying, “It is business as usual from our side, we have not encountered any challenges as a result.”
He also said he was confident the deal would be implemented especially as Turkey was also keen in opening an embassy in Lesotho.
The deal also provides for the establishment of a bi-national commission which will meet once every two years with the objective of assessing performance and ensuring that the objectives of the agreement are fulfilled.
The deal is part of efforts by Lesotho to achieve economic diversification by identifying and co-operating with other countries beyond traditional partners that include the United States of America.
Other prospective partners are Argentina, Nigeria, India, China, Chile and South Korea.