Mauritius: The First Mauritius-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Joint Commission Meeting was held, today, at the Caudan Arts Centre, in Port Louis. The Ambassador of the Republic of Mauritius to the People’s Republic of China, Marie Roland Alain Wong Yen Cheong; the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of Mauritius, Liying Zhu; and the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, J. Nayeck, were present.
The FTA Joint Commission, composed of Government representatives of both countries at the level of senior officials, aims at ensuring the effective operation and implementation of the Agreement and any other agreement or legal instrument concluded or to be concluded under the Agreement.
The Chinese delegation was led by the Director of the Department of the World Trade Organisation Affairs, Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China, Han Yong; and the Mauritian side by the Director Trade Policy, International Trade Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, Dr Narainduth Boodhoo.
The Rules of Procedure were also signed by Dr Boodhoo and Mr Han Yong.
In his address, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Nayeck, observed that this first meeting of the FTA Joint Commission is an important date in the longstanding trade and economic relations between Mauritius and China. He recalled that the Mauritius-China FTA which entered into force on 01 January 2023 is the first FTA signed by China with an African country.
The FTA, he underlined, has set transparent and predictable conditions to enhance trade, investment and economic cooperation between the two countries while providing a more solid institutional guarantee for deepening bilateral relations.
He added that the meeting will consider a wide array of issues related to the operationalisation of the FTA namely the export of sugar, pineapples and litchis to China; the implementation of the Economic Cooperation Chapter of the FTA; investment flows; Mutual Recognition Agreements; and Intellectual Property.
He added that fish products also constitute one of the main products of export interest of Mauritius to China and highlighted that a draft Protocol is to be finalised so that its entry into force facilitates the export of wild aquatic products.
Acknowledging that the Mauritius-China FTA is taking bilateral relations to new heights, Nayeck however observed that its full potential has yet to be fully unleashed. He indicated that China is the largest source of imports for Mauritius, with 16,1% of Mauritian imports originating from China in 2022. He also revealed that since the entry into force of the FTA, Mauritius’ preferential exports to China stood at USD 15 million.
He further commended the initiative ‘Nine Programmes’ in light of the China-Africa Cooperation Vision 2035 as well as the strong collaboration between China and African countries to operationalise the ‘Nine Programmes’ in sectors such as trade promotion, agriculture, investment and digital innovation.
The Secretary for Foreign Affairs also reiterated the invitation of Mauritius to China to use Mauritius as a regional manufacturing hub to produce goods to be exported to its preferential markets in Africa namely the African Continental Free Trade Area and well as COMESA and SADC Free Trade Areas.
For his part, the Chinese Ambassador remarked that the 51 years of diplomatic relations between Mauritius and China have witnessed increasing mutual political support on issues of interest and the reinforcement of economic relations.
Mauritius, he stated, has the advantage of a strong geographical position, financial facilities, attractiveness with regard to international investments, and economic opening. As for China, it is pursuing with its modernisation and opening policy, he said.
Speaking about the first FTA Joint Commission meeting, he underscored the importance of organising this meeting to take stock of the outcomes of the FTA since the last three years and to prepare for a better future. He expressed confidence that a new ambitious and practical Roadmap will be devised with the aim of giving a new impetus to the FTA.
As for the Dr Boodhoo, he highlighted that other priority sectors such as blue economy and renewable energy have been included in the FTA with the aim of creating the right economic system. He dwelt on the importance of investment and economic cooperation while underlying the need to implement the FTA so as to unlock the potential for development for other countries.
Director Han Yong, stated that China is the largest trading partner of Mauritius and pointed out that since the past two years, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, bilateral trade volume from China increased from USD 726 million in 2020 to more than one billion USD in 2022, representing an increase of 38,6%.
According to him, the implementation of the FTA will bring in fruitful results, new opportunities and inject new impetus in the growth of bilateral trade and economic cooperation between both countries. The strengthening of future cooperation was also highlighted by Mr Han Yong.
The Mauritius-China FTA was signed on 17 October 2019 in Beijing China and came into force on the 01 January this year.
The FTA covers some 8,547 Chinese tariff lines and 6,375 Mauritian tariff lines, namely in goods, trade in goods, trade in services, investment, economic cooperation, dispute settlement, electronic commerce, competition policy, intellectual property rights, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures and legal provisions.