I would first like to welcome the Delegation of Mauritius, led by The Honourable Mr. Alan GANOO, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade. I would also like to thank the WTO Secretariat and the Government of Mauritius for their reports, which form the basis for our discussion today. Let me extend our appreciation to the Discussant, H.E. Dr. Cleopa Kilonzo MAILU (Ambassador of Kenya) for introducing us to the country's trade policy review. The EU would also like to acknowledge the positive approach and constructive role played by H.E. Mrs. Usha Chandnee DWARKA-CANABADY on behalf of the African Group in Geneva.
Chair, this is the fifth review of Mauritius, and I would like to start by noting that the European Union shares the Secretariat’s views on Mauritius’ performance, especially on the measures taken to contain the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mauritius was one of the most hit countries in Africa and as a small island open economy is vulnerable to external shocks. The EU understands that Mauritius may adopt a more targeted approach to support viable firms to adapt to post Covid-19 environment, while gradually reducing its assistance to enterprises that were already unviable prior to the pandemic.
Mauritius is an original Member of the WTO and continues to play an active role here, in both the multilateral and plurilateral work, including the Joint Statement Initiatives on Investment Facilitation for Development and services domestic regulation. The EU notes with satisfaction Mauritius’ progress in implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and its positive record of WTO notifications. As the Coordinator of the African Group, Mauritius is in a key position to help the WTO move forward, especially at this time of the WTO reform. The EU expresses its appreciation of the contribution of Mauritius in finding solutions and working on new rules to ensure that international trade contributes to the economic recovery of its Members, and facilitate their integration in global supply chains.
The EU notes that Mauritius has a sound business regulatory framework. We nonetheless urge the government to enhance transparency in the transactions of public entities, especially those with the government as a sole or majority shareholder. Mauritius should involve civil society in a constructive dialogue on trade policy questions through strong linkages with private sector and government.
The EU is Mauritius’ main trading partner, accounting for 24.7% of Mauritius’ total trade in 2020. The EU remains the largest destination for Mauritius’ exports (33.2%) and the main source of its imports (21.6%). The interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), provisionally applied since 14 May 2012, leads to 100% of Mauritius exports entering into the EU markets duty free. While there has been a decline in our bilateral trade volume since 2020, this is attributable to the pandemic and has affected Mauritius’ trade with all major trading partners.
Negotiations started in October 2019 with a view to deepen this agreement into a comprehensive EPA covering the full range of trade-related issues, including trade and sustainable development as well as reinforced institutional provisions and civil society dialogue. The future agreement will be the first comprehensive, modern FTA in Sub-Saharan Africa. It will increase alignment of the trade policy of Mauritius to the international standards.
The EU is supporting Mauritius in a wide range of areas, including electronic licensing, land use and construction, trade and logistics, tourism, healthcare and life sciences, intellectual property. The EU also provides capacity building in trade policy making and negotiations.
The EU notes the active engagement of Mauritius in the negotiations to finalise the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), in addition to being already party to the two existing African continental trade blocs, namely the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). The AfCFTA will improve Mauritius’ access to other African markets, and will further add to the competitive positioning of Mauritius as a platform to trade and invest in Africa. The EU is already providing support to the AfCFTA Secretariat and can extend its support to Mauritius through its national and regional programming to help Mauritius take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the AfCFTA.
In its advance written questions, the EU has raised a wide range of issues, notably timeframe for the different legislation mentioned in the Government report, including an update on the Intellectual Property law, clarification of government procurement matters (namely with the State Trading Corporation), and policies for foreign investment in the tourism sector. We are also interested in learning more about the special economic zones and integration process with Africa, actions taken to increase competitiveness and addressing the growth model for sustained and more inclusive economic development.
Chair, the EU acknowledges with satisfaction Mauritius’ substantial progress since the previous review in 2014 despite the challenges faced by the country and reiterates its will to cooperate closely with the Mauritius in its economic recovery. We look forward to a constructive exchange of views and wish a successful review to the Mauritian delegation. Thank you.