Mauritius-China FTA to strengthen economic cooperation in various sectors
The first round of negotiations on the Mauritius-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA), kicked off yesterday at Maritim Resort & Spa, in Balaclava.
The FTA aims at creating the necessary conditions to further expand bilateral trade and investment exchanges between Mauritius and the People’s Republic of China as well as strengthen economic cooperation in a number of areas of interest to Mauritius.
The two-day event is organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade so as to initiate discussions and agree on the modalities of work on four pillars of the Agreement, namely: trade in goods, trade in services, investment, and economic cooperation.
In her opening remarks the Head of the Mauritian delegation, Ambassador Mrs U. C. Dwarka Canabady, Secretary for Foreign Affairs (SFA), at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, said that the start of talks marks an important date in Mauritius-China economic ties as both countries embark on negotiations of the first ever FTA between China and an African State. She was upbeat that, once implemented, the FTA will contribute meaningfully to further strengthen the economic and trade relations by taking it to new heights.
According to the SFA, it is necessary for both sides to be ambitious for the FTA to be a success, and, therefore it is important to eliminate trade barriers on core products of interest to Mauritius and China as well as on key services sectors. These sectors comprise the financial services, distribution, retailing, insurance, education, legal and accounting, ICT/BPO, agribusiness, medical, and logistics.
Statistics indicate that in 2017 total imports from China amounted to USD 853 million and total exports to China stood at USD 27 million. Ambassador Dwarka Canabady, recalled that China is currently the third main trading partner of Mauritius and the largest source of imports.
Mauritius’s exports towards China have, however, remained limited on a narrow range of products (metal scraps, clothing, and aquatic and handmade products), and, the trade gap between the two countries remains huge, she pointed out adding that the FTA should contribute to closing this gap.
For his part the Head of the Chinese delegation, and Deputy Director General, Ministry of Commerce, Mr Hu Yingzhi, observed that although China and Mauritius are far geographically, the distance has in no way affected the shared long and enduring friendship.
A Free Trade Agreement, he stated, will no doubt provide an institutional guarantee for future Mauritius-China economic, trade and investment relations, further consolidate friendship ties, and contribute to added cooperation between China and Africa on a larger scale.
Moreover, Mr Hu Yingzhi pointed out that China will continue to adhere to the fundamental policy of opening up and actively promote international cooperation through the Belt and Road initiative for policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity. It is in this spirit, he assured, that the Chinese delegation is starting FTA talks with Mauritius, a country which he termed as the most competitive and promising economy in Africa.
A fifteen-member strong delegation from the People’s Republic of China is currently in Mauritius for the first round of negotiations. Officials from the Ministry of Commerce, National Development and Reform Commission; Ministry of Finance; and, Ministry of Agriculture and General Administration of Customs, are also participating.
The thirty-member delegation led by the SFA comprises the Director of the International Trade Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, as well as representatives from the public and private sectors.
The two delegations are taking stock of the documents exchanged by both Mauritius and China on various aspects of the negotiations. The work agenda comprises parallel meetings focused on trade in goods, trade in services, investment, general economic cooperation, and dispute settlement and legal provisions.