Mauritius's negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CECPA) with India is nearing conclusion with the seventh round of negotiations scheduled next week. It is expected that the CECPA will be signed during the Prime Minister's, Mr Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, visit to India in January 2019.
This announcement was made yesterday by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, Mr Seetanah Lutchmeenaraidoo, at the Maritim Resort and Spa, in Balaclava. He was speaking at the opening ceremony of a two-day national workshop on the state of play of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The workshop aims at updating stakeholders on the WTO Doha Development round of negotiations, the escalating tensions between major trading partners, the proliferation of trade-restrictive measures among members of the WTO and other challenges that could potentially disrupt the functioning of the WTO.
In his address, Minister Lutchmeenaraidoo, remarked that WTO presently stands at a difficult crossroad given that it has functioned according to the rules of the West. However, with the emergence of China, India and Russia on this vast trading market, it is now clear that the rules are changing, he emphasised.
Mauritius, the Minister pointed out, has therefore to learn from this situation and the country still has to be able to survive and develop. This is the reason why Mauritius has chosen to develop a survival and expansion strategy within the region which involves putting focus on bilateral ties within the Indian Ocean area as well as with the African continent with countries such as Ghana, South Africa, Ethiopia and Kenya and our ties with Asia, that is, India, China and the Middle East, he indicated.
According to Mr Lutchmeenaraidoo, Mauritius should consider itself to be a lighthouse in the region and that is why the country has finalised a Free Trade Agreement with China. We are also a member of the trilateral agreement in Africa which brings together COMESA and SADC, that is, 26 countries and 650 million consumers, he stated. So this means that we clearly have an outward-driven strategy and our survival depends on our capacity to be an integral part of international trade and also to make the most of what the region can offer, the ties we have within the region for win-win situations in the interest of one and all and by encouraging South-South cooperation, he said.
The national workshop
The objectives of the workshop are also to foster a better understanding of the complex WTO rules and disciplines and enhance the capacity of participants to effectively engage in trade policy discussions/negotiations and formulation that would benefit and contribute to the development of the Mauritian economy.
Around 60 participants from the public and private sectors and from non-governmental organisations are attending. Resource persons are Mr Willie Chatsika, Counsellor, WTO Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation; and, Ms Stefania Bernabe, Counsellor, Council and Trade Negotiations Division, WTO.
Discussions are focusing on: principles of the WTO negotiations with a general overview of the General Council and structure of negotiations (escalating tensions between major trading partners); joint initiatives such as electronic commerce and investment facilitation for development; and, systemic issues in the WTO including preferential trade regimes.