Honourable Maurice Loustau-Lalanne – Minister for Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning
Dear colleagues - Ambassadors from EU Member States
Representatives from the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Seychelles Investment Board
European investors and private sector representatives
Representatives from the Civil Society Organisations
Members of the press
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is with great pleasure that I address you today on the occasion of the launching of the support that the European Union is providing to Seychelles in the area of trade.
EU and the Economic Partnership Agreement with Seychelles
The European Union has a long standing partnership of more than 40 years with Seychelles.
Trade has always been a key element of our partnership. This is important as Seychelles is highly dependent on imports and exports.
The European Union is the first trade partner of Seychelles and Seychelles first export market. Today more than 55% of Seychelles exports go to the European Union market. Exports consist principally of fish and fish products – estimated at 95.6% in 2018.
Moreover, the EU is the second largest market from which Seychelles imports its goods.
The EU commends Government on its vision to open up its market to the EU, to the region and to the world. The country's adhesion to the World Trade Organisation in 2014 after 19 years of negotiations bears testimony to Government's strong commitment to place international trade at the top of its agenda.
The EU itself remains a staunch supporter of the multilateral trading system and considers that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is indispensable in ensuring open, fair and rules-based trade.
Seychelles' strong commitment to the Economic Partnership Agreement – referred to as the EPA - is another major milestone in the trade development architecture. Seychelles is aware of the prospects that the EPA offers to pursue trade with the EU, via complete quota-free and duty-free access for all its products.
The Economic Partnership Agreement has allowed the 5 ESA countries (Seychelles but also Madagascar, Mauritius, Zimbabwe and Comoros) to increase their exports to the EU by an average of 23% since the agreement entered into force in 2012.
Seychelles have seen their exports increase by more than 30%! This is remarkable.
In this regard, I seize the opportunity to congratulate Government on its pro-activeness in the negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreement. Not later than last month, Seychelles again showed its commitment to the EPA deepening process. The deepening is happening within a context of great attention being paid to African integration efforts, which we hope will culminate one day with the Free Trade Agreement between our two continents. The EU and ESA are about to start something that may become a big step towards this aim, and also forge a building block of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. Seychelles active role from preparation to deepening during scoping paper preparation is noteworthy. Therefore, I wish to thank you for your cooperative attitude.
I wish to underline that the EPA deepening will be transparent and will involve a broad consultation process. Business and social partners will have their say, so that the final outcome is accepted by everyone.
I am glad that the second round of negotiations on the deepening exercise, supported by the EPA Coordination Hub will be held here in Seychelles between 13 and 17 January 2020.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The EPA does not only eliminate tariffs.
The EPA also addresses barriers that impede the flow of goods and services. It encourages investment and enhances cooperation in the region.
Consequently, the EPA should not be perceived only as a new-generation, reciprocal trade agreement between Seychelles and the EU. It has a broader development-oriented objective assisting in inclusive growth, in job creation, in women empowerment, in poverty reduction and in sustainable development.
To assist Government in implementing the Economic Partnership Agreement, the European Union has allocated a total envelope of nearly 11 million EUR (165 million Seychelles Rupees) to Seychelles.
The programme we are launching today has three objectives:
1. First, to reinforce the capacity of key actors to better implement trade and regional integration agreements;
2. Secondly, to support private enterprises in the manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries sectors to boost their production and produce higher value products with high export potential – through diversification and through innovation.
You will agree that focusing 95.6% of exports to EU only on fish and fish products is quite risky. There is need to diversify the exports base to build more resilience against any unforeseen external shocks on which the country has no control. New products such as cinnamon or vanilla could offer opportunities.
3. And thirdly, to facilitate trade by exploring new emerging markets. How? By for example putting producers in contact with foreign buyers and by encouraging more investment.
All the above activities require technical inputs. To assist the Ministry for Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning, we are providing a European long term technical expert who will be posted at the Trade division for nearly 4 years, as well as a fisheries expert over a period of 3 years. Short term expertise is also available for key studies, trainings in key areas where the Ministry or key civil society organizations or private sector intermediary organisations identify a need, etc.
The EU experts are present here today. Mr Zincone will shortly give you more details on the EPA project and on how he will assist you reap the maximum benefit from it!
Ladies and Gentlemen
The EPA support programme is not the only operation to boost trade and sustainable development in Seychelles. We also have other instruments that are in complementarity with the EPA programme. The EU is notably providing two other important envelopes to Seychelles to further assist Government in meeting its trade expansion objectives.
• Firstly, to boost logistics we are investing 34 m EUR which we signed last year for the Expansion and Rehabilitation of Port Victoria. This is a blending operation comprising a mix of soft loans from the European Investment Bank and the Agence Francaise de Développement, and a grant from the European Union. Port Victoria is a key infrastructure for the country. This is a strategic operation for the whole country. The length of the quay will be doubled, the port yard will be extended which means that products (including fish, goods, fuel) and tourists will be separated. The port’s capacity and safety which is essential to meet the trade expansion objectives will increase.
• Secondly, Seychelles and the EU have successfully negotiated last month a new Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement. The agreement aims at reinforcing cooperation on monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing activities. It also aims at putting in place necessary infrastructure to local fishing activities and supporting the development of the small-scale fisheries etc. For the first time, there will be a special focus on marine environmental management – which is a clear priority for Seychelles.
These are important initiatives that can greatly contribute to economic growth and job creation. I am really glad that we can share the EU expertise, who besides the trade aspects, also covers the environmental norms and the promotion of labour rights.
The technical assistance has an important role ahead. Mr Zincone and his team of experts will be at your disposal for the next years and please make the most of this opportunity to improve your negotiation potential, expand your business by entering into niche segments and increase your exports to the region, to the European Union and beyond.