Mauritian Foreign A ffairs and International Trade Minister Arvin Boolell told Parliament here Tuesday that the conclusion of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) is is critical for Mauritius given that the EU is its main trading partner, accounting for two-thirds of its exports.
Answering a parliamentary question, Boolell said it was in the interest of Mauritius to enter into an ambitious, predictable, legally binding and WTO-compatible Agreement with the EU.
”We are fully committed to concluding such an EPA that supports Mauritius on its development path,” he declared.
The Minister recalled that the EPA negotiations were expected to be completed in December 2007.
However, in view of slow progress in the different areas of negotiations, an interim EPA was concluded covering only trade in goods, development cooperation and fisheries.
”It was agreed that negotiations in the remaining areas, including services, trade related issues and agriculture, would be pursued in 2008,” he said.
”Mauritius has initialled the interim EPA which has not only preserved its continued access on the EU market but has also enlarged the scope of preferential market access and improved on the rules of origin for textiles, canned tuna and for several agricultural products,” he said.
He informed the Parliament that negotiations were being pursued in the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) region towards the conclusion of a full EPA.
”Zambia who had initialled the interim EPA but without concluding market access negotiations has now completed this exercise and has therefore joined the ranks of Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar, Seychelles and Zimbabwe,” Boolell said.
Senior Officials of these countries have agreed to continue negotiations in 2009 towards the full EPA.
According to the Minister, the full and comprehensive EPA which may be concluded in the year 2009, has the merit of providing enhanced market access through simple, flexible and development friendly rules of origin like, for instance the global sourcing of tuna for processing.
He said simple rules of origin were also beneficial to the smaller and medium size enterprises which normally face difficulties to meet stringent rules of origin requirements.
”The EPA will improve access for trade in services on the EU market. In fact there could be the possibility for workers to secure jobs in the EU on a contractual basis. It will also create a better business friendly environment and promote greater flows of Foreign Direct Investment and therefore contribute towards overall development and economic growth,” the Minister said.