Preferential trade with Mauritius: market access for the UK, China, and state parties of the AfCFTA

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Preferential trade with Mauritius: market access for the UK, China, and state parties of the AfCFTA

Preferential trade with Mauritius: market access for the UK, China, and state parties of the AfCFTA

As of 1 January 2021, the Mauritian tariff book has three additional columns for preferential market access to the Mauritian market. These tariffs are for imports from the United Kingdom (UK), China and state parties of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). Mauritius has market access to these destination markets under free trade agreements which came into effect on 1 January 2021. This blog reviews the preferential market access available under these agreements. Also, market access conditions of interest are highlighted.

UK-Eastern Southern Africa (ESA) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)

On 31 January 2019, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, and Seychelles signed the UK-ESA EPA.[1] This agreement entered into force on 1 January 2021. This EPA is a continuation agreement based on the Interim EPA between the ESA countries and the European Union (EU).

Under the UK-ESA EPA Mauritius has duty-free and quota-free access to the UK market. Article 42 of the agreement also allows for derogations from meeting certain specific rules of origin. ESA countries can apply for derogations from the requirement for sufficiently worked or processing of non-originating materials for specified products. These are dairy produce, cut flowers, flour, oilseed, natural gums, vegetable oils, pasta, and pastries. Also, without prior application, a derogation is granted for tuna used in canned tuna and tuna loins. An annual quota of 6300 tons of tuna for canned tuna and 340 tons of tuna for tuna loins do not have to meet the rules of origin requirements (Article 42(8) of the EPA).

For UK imports, 95 per cent of tariffs are duty-free. Of the remaining 341 tariff lines, 57 per cent are earmarked for progressive liberalisation. These include alcoholic beverages, rum, vodka, boxes, knitted bed and table linen, and smoking pipes. 129 tariff lines are excluded from liberalisation:

  • 90 tariff lines with 15 per cent duties including flour, bottled water, beer, wood polish, tubes and pipes, desks, swivel chairs, envelopes, cotton curtains, knitted bedspreads, and printed bed linen made of man-made fibres.

  • 33 tariff lines are levied 30 per cent tariffs including black tea, plastic carrier bags, paper tablecloths and serviettes, and leather suitcases and trunks with plastic or textile material outer surfaces.

  • 6 tariff lines covering sugar (raw beet sugar, cane sugar for domestic consumption, and refined sugar) are levied 100 per cent duties.

China-Mauritius Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

The China-Mauritius FTA[2] is the first FTA between China and an African country. The agreement covers trade in goods (tariffs, rules of origin, trade facilitation cooperation, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, and trade remedies), services (and the movement of persons), investment, competition, intellectual property, electronic commerce (customs duties, digital certificates, data protection, paperless trade and cooperation), economic cooperation (industries identified include agro-processing, food security, innovation, financial services, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, film, ocean economy, tourism, and arts and culture), and dispute settlement.

Under the market access conditions for Mauritian imports into China, there is a tariff-rate quota in place for sugar. These are the same products Mauritius excludes from liberalisation under the FTA – raw beet sugar, cane sugar for home consumption, and refined sugar.

  • 88 per cent of China’s tariffs for Mauritian imports are zero.

  • 5 per cent are liberalised over 5 years. Products included are beef and pork, tuna, nuts, avocadoes and fruits, coffee, stevia leaves, whole pepper, glucose and fructose, couscous, bulgar wheat, peas, yeast, footwear, motorcycles, and mounted diamonds.

  • 3 per cent are liberalised over 7 years. Products included are vehicles, parts, and accessories; wool fabrics; and film.

  • 313 tariff lines are excluded from liberalisation and include shark fins, tea, rice, soya beans, seed oils, tomato juice, tobacco refuse, cigars and cigarettes, urea, toilet tissue, most types of paper, wool, cotton, sawing machines, and hand tools.

For Chinese imports into the Mauritian market, 6120 tariff lines (94 per cent) are duty-free. Of the remaining 362 tariff lines, 41 per cent are excluded from liberalisation. These are similar to those excluded under the UK-ESA EPA, including sugar; flour; bottled water; beer; other fermented beverages; pet foods; table and kitchenware of plastics, bed, table and toilet linen; galvanised steel shapes and sections; and illuminated signs.

AfCFTA

The Mauritian tariff book lists the countries that Mauritius can trade with under the AfCFTA.[3] These countries have ratified the AfCFTA and submitted their offers of tariff liberalisation. The listed countries include South Africa, Namibia, Eswatini, Kenya, Egypt, and Uganda which are SADC and COMESA member states. Other countries listed include Ghana, Cameroon, Gambia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Nigeria, Mauritania, and Sierra Leone. According to the information provided on the Mauritian Trade Portal trade with COMESA and SADC member states will continue to take place under the designated trade agreements and not the AfCFTA. Trade under the AfCFTA is only for non-SADC and non-COMESA state parties. The tariff book states that preferential access will only be granted to those AfCFTA state parties which grant Mauritian imports reciprocal tariff preferences. Consequently, the countries Mauritius trade with under the AfCFTA are those implementing the AfCFTA. Recently, it was indicated that Ghana, Egypt, and South Africa are ready to trade under the AfCFTA. Of these three, South Africa are experiencing administrative delays and Egypt has not finalised their tariff offer. Accordingly, Mauritius can currently trade with Ghana under the AfCFTA.

What are the tariff preferences granted? In the Mauritian tariff book, the tariffs on imports from AfCFTA state parties are the same as the MFN tariffs – 94 per cent of tariff lines are duty-free and those levied tariffs include sugar, flour, black tea, ground spices, bottled water, alcoholic beverages, linens, and galvanized steel shapes and sections. Rules of origin for some of these products are still outstanding which can explain the lack of liberalisation. However, Mauritius already meets the requirement to liberalise 90 per cent of tariff lines.

On the Ghanaian side, the preferential tariffs Ghana grants to AfCFTA State Parties are under the tariff offer submitted by the ECOWAS countries (reduction in the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET)). Of the 6129 tariff lines in the ECOWAS CET, 5516 tariff lines (90 per cent) are earmarked for liberalisation over 10 years. However, most will not be liberalised to duty-free but 5 per cent tariffs.

  • 94 tariff lines are duty-free under the ECOWAS CET.

  • 2260 tariff lines of the ECOWAS CET have 5 per cent tariffs to be reduced to zero by year 5.

  • 1390 tariff lines have 10 per cent tariffs to be reduced to 5 per cent tariffs in year 8. Products included are live animals, tuna, sardines, anchovies, essential oils, yarn, fabrics, hand tools (pliers, drills, cutters), new assembled goods vehicles, and musical instruments.

  • 1768 tariff lines are reduced from current 20 per cent tariffs to 10 per cent in year 8 and 5 per cent in year 10. Products included are new assembled passenger vehicles, electrical home appliances, pork, most fish fillets and seafood, cut flowers, vegetables, nuts, most fruits, spices, and brandy and vodka.

  • Four products have 35 per cent tariffs to be reduced to 20 per cent in year 5, 10 per cent in year 8, and 5 per cent in year 10. These products are edible offal, and fatty duck and goose livers.

  • Products excluded from liberalisation are mainly agricultural goods. These include meat products, poultry, milk, cheeses, raw cane sugar, sugar confectionery, chocolate and cocoa preparations, and pasta.


[1] For more info, see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ms-no42019-agreement-establishing-an-economic-partnership-agreement-between-the-eastern-and-southern-africa-states-and-the-uk

[2] For more info, see http://www.mauritiustrade.mu/en/trade-agreements/china

[3] For more info, see http://www.mauritiustrade.mu/en/trade-agreements/afcfta

About the Author(s)

Willemien Viljoen

Willemien Viljoen

Willemien Viljoen holds a Master’s degree in Economics and a Bachelor of Laws degree (LLB) from the University of Stellenbosch. Her research interests are in regional integration and international trade policy, and specifically in issues pertaining to non-tariff barriers to trade, trade data analysis and modeling and trade and climate change.

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