Sunday, April 30, 2006

Few Firms attend Zim trade fair

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe opened its annual trade fair on Friday with fewer overseas participants than ever, a stark sign of the country's economic downturn and deepening isolation critics blame on President Robert Mugabe's government.

The annual fair in the second city of Bulawayo, once one of Africa's leading trade events, attracted just a handful of companies from African and Asian countries unafraid of showing solidarity with Mugabe during his stand-off with the West.

"I would say this year's fair is the worst in the 47 year history of the fair, from a business perspective, and this is a direct reflection of Zimbabwe's poor international image," said Bulawayo businessman Eddie Cross, an official in the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

"There has not been much real trade conducted and most of the countries that have come are here mainly as a political show of solidarity with the ZANU-PF party government," Cross told Reuters by telephone....

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