[WORKSHOP] Mauritius-China FTA Themed : Shaping Future Economic Perspectives
2 Mar 2021
Day 1 - Opening of the National Workshop on the Mauritius-China Free Trade Agreement
Dr. The Hon. Renganaden Padayachy, the Minister of Land Transport and Light Rail, Regional Integration and International Trade and Foreign Affairs, Mr. Alan Ganoo, the Minister of Industrial Development, SMEs and Cooperatives, Mr. Soomilduth Bholah, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, Mr. Sun Gongyi and other personalities were present for the official opening session of the workshop.
In his keynote address, Dr. The Hon. Renganaden Padayachy highlighted that the agreement is the first FTA concluded between China and an African country and is in force since 1st January 2021. He underlined the privileged political, cultural, and economic relations that both countries share. He further added that Mauritius will benefit from duty free exports on more than 8,000 tariff lines representing 96% of Chinese national tariff lines. He emphasized that the FTA eliminates custom duties on a list of products of export interest in Mauritius which includes seafood products, fruits, rum, animal feed, soaps and detergents, garments, and medical devices.
The Minister spoke of the financial facilities and technical assistance provided by China in several priority sectors such as agriculture, social housing, health, security, and air transport to carry out several major development projects in Mauritius.
Furthermore, Dr. The Hon. Renganaden Padayachy announced that China will provide a new grant of 40 million yuan amounting to 250 million rupees and simultaneously waive the payment of an interest-free loan of 32 million yuan, accounting to around 200 million rupees. These two agreements will soon be signed. The Minister also pointed out that China has granted Mauritius an exceptional agreement for the export of special sugars with a tariff quota of 50,000 tons at a rate of 15% instead of 50%.
On his side, The Hon. Minister Bholah indicated that the FTA will contribute to boost exports to China and Mauritian exporters engaged in the exportation of textile and apparel products to China will enjoy preferential access. Ten areas of cooperation including industrial cooperation, pharmaceuticals, medical services and cosmetics, agro-industry and food security, business cooperation have been integrated in the FTA text.
The Chinese Ambassador, Mr. Sun Gongyi stated that the FTA will not only enhance trade cooperation between China and Mauritius but will become a valuable platform and a key link for the China-Africa cooperation. He pointed out that the FTA comprises four main components pertaining to trade in goods, trade in services, investment, and economic cooperation.
Amid a changing paradigm coupled with a subdued outlook for global growth, there is an unequivocal need to leverage on the window of opportunities that the FTA will unfold to ramp up trade and investments in the country. Today’s workshop first session was on new opportunities for businesses presented by Dr.Sunil Boodhoo, Director of the International Trade Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and international Trade.
The second session was a presentation on the Dynamics of the Chinese Market delivered by Mr. Hu Ming, Economic and Commercial Counsellor at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Mauritius. China, being one of the leading investor countries into Africa, unravels a host of prospects for Mauritius as the ideal springboard for Chinese investments into Africa and beyond. He gave a snapshot of the most important trade fairs held in China in which Mauritian operators could consider their participation.
The third session for the day was based on how Mauritian operators could take the most out of new technologies and trade enablers to enhance their business with China. The audience had the opportunity to listen to Mr. Ian J. Valentine, Principal Consultant in Digital Strategy and Product, and Mr. Craig John Burchell, VP Global Public Affairs from Huawei.
The fourth session was based on Understanding the Rules of Origin under the Mauritius-China FTA for Market Access. Ms. Anoushka Permalloo, team leader at the MRA Customs delivered a presentation on same followed by a Panel Discussion moderated by Dr. Yousouf Ismael, Secretary General of the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce on Expanding Businesses and increasing exports with all the opportunities arising from our preferential market access to and from China.
Day 2: Trade in Services
The second day of the Mauritius China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) workshop themed, ‘Shaping Future Economic Perspectives’, organised by the EDB under the aegis of the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration, and International Trade and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Republic of Mauritius, held today 02nd March 2021, was mainly geared towards the Trade in Services chapter of the FTA.
The protocol session was marked by the presence of The Honourable Alan Ganoo, Minister of Land Transport and Light Rail, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, The Honourable Mahen Kumar Seeruttun, Minister of Financial Services and Good Governance, The Honourable Darsanand Balgobin, Minister of Information Technology, Communication and Innovation and His Excellency Ambassador Sun Gongyi of the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of Mauritius.
In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the EDB, Mr. Hemraj Ramnial, CSK, reiterated on the significance of taking advantage of the FTA to diversify Mauritius’ trading links, thus connecting our island to emerging economies and to the broader Asian continent. He further indicated that the business community, stakeholders, and key institutions stand at the doorsteps of immense opportunities arising from the Mauritius-China FTA and it is an opportune historic moment to explore new avenues and launch new pillars to enhance investment and trade to and from Mauritius.
In his intervention, the Honourable Alan Ganoo, Minister of Land Transport and Light Rail, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration, and International Trade appealed to the Chinese Government to market the FTA amongst its economic operators to set up businesses in Mauritius and invest in areas where Mauritius is lacking in capacity such as artificial intelligence and robotics, research and innovation, video-conferencing facilities, information technology, pharmaceuticals, and traditional medicines. He further added that Mauritius can consolidate its position as a premier services hub for the African region, while at the same time elevating the China-Africa economic and trade cooperation to new heights. The minister commended the EDB for having prepared an export booklet to assist operators to enhance their business with China.
From a financial services perspective, The Honourable Mahen Kumar Seeruttun, Minister of Financial Services and Good Governance, emphasized on the benefits that could be exploited from the Mauritius China FTA in attracting Foreign Direct Investment into the African continent through the Mauritius International Financial Centre (IFC). He stated that, at time when China is growing its investments into Africa, the extensive network of Double Taxation Avoidance Treaties and Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements of Mauritius will undoubtedly encourage investors to structure and route their cross-border flows through Mauritius. Furthermore, the Honourable Minister highlighted that following the ratification of the Mauritius China FTA, Chinese companies can choose the Mauritius IFC to set up their regional headquarters in Mauritius and even relocate their regional treasury management due to its conducive business climate, political stability, and a string of other unique selling points.
For the Minister of Information Technology, Communication, and Innovation, the Honourable Darsanand Balgobin, the FTA would spur international cooperation in the digital sector, boost macro-policy coordination and facilitate the development of the digital and sharing economy. He accentuated on Mauritius’ geographic position as a logistic and service hub in Eastern and Southern African region whereby big Chinese businesses like Alibaba could leverage. Moreover, the Minister stressed that Mauritius’ high quality and proven infrastructure is key to support services export capacity which is a major component of the FTA strategy.
The first panel of discussion was focused on positioning of Mauritius as an RMB clearing hub for the region. The panel was moderated by Mr. Mardayah Kona Yerukunondu, the First Deputy Governor of the Bank of Mauritius. The panelists explained how the setting up of an RMB clearing hub in Mauritius could facilitate payments and settlements as well as support stability in terms of exchange rate management locally.
The second panel of discussion was titled opportunities and the modes of market access. Dr. Sunil Boodhoo, the Director of International Trade Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration, and International Trade moderated the panel. A presentation was also made on trade in services, demystifying the technical terms, opportunities, and advantages that Mauritius will derive from the agreement. The different panel members elaborated on the specifics, highlighting how the ICT, financial services and professional services could benefit from market access during the session.
The third panel session entitled Trade Financing was moderated by Mr. Daniel Essoo, the Chief Executive Officer of the Mauritius Bankers Association. The panelists discussed on the availability of trade financing instruments in the country as well as the benefits of the financial services operators would capture in the aftermath of growing trade between Mauritius and China.
The last panel of discussion was on the Trilateral Axis: China – Mauritius – Africa. The panel was moderated by Dr. Yousouf Ismael, the Secretary General of the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The panel focused on positioning of Mauritius as a springboard for investments in Africa and on the benefits of using Mauritius as a headquarter for Chinese operations on the continent.