Diplomatic relations between Mauritius and India go as far as the early 1800s. The 2nd of November 1834 marked the day when Mauritius welcomed its first indentured labourers to the island, most of whom, about two-thirds, settled permanently in the country. Consequently, accounting for the fact that more than 60% of the actual population being of Indian descent.
Since then, this relationship has witnessed considerable nurturing and strengthening in its political, commercial as well as cultural aspects; for example, the Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) between Mauritius and India in 1983, Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, Agreement on Cooperation in Information Technology (2000), MoU on Air Services (2005), to name a few. Recently, the 1st of April 2021 became a very important date in this very long and well-established economic tie between India and Mauritius. Both countries ratified a preferential trade agreement, (signed in February 2021), setting the tone towards improved trade for more than 600 products and 100 sub-sectors in the service sector.
The India-Mauritius Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) is actually the first trade agreement signed by India with a country in Africa. This agreement will pave the way for the two trading partners to cut or eliminate custom duties on a host of products as well as relaxing existing standards to promote service trade.
Mauritius, with its strategic geographical position in the Indian Ocean, besides the wide network of bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the region, can now be leveraged to a much greater extent to tap into new markets and promote greater cross border investments in Africa.
Access to Market products
For the past many years, India has remained the largest trading partner and largest exporter of goods and services to Mauritius.
Mauritius benefits immensely from the CECPA with privileged market access into India for more than 600 local and exclusive products, including frozen fish, speciality sugar, alcoholic drinks, soaps, clothes, amongst others. It can now have preferential market access into India on a list of 615 products as follows:
- Duty free access on 376 products
- Reduced duties on 127 products
- Tariff rate quotas on 112 products
These include benefits such as:
- 40 000 tons of special sugar at 10% duty compared to 100% duty applicable on other import countries
- 2 million litres of beer at 25% duty, compared to 150% duty
- 5 million litres on rum at 50% duty compared to existing duty of 150%
- 5000 litres on Fruit wine at 50% duty compared to current duty of 150%
- 5 million pieces duty free on Garments
- 7000 tons duty free access on canned tuna
The implementation of the CECPA also provides the opportunity to tap into a wider range of products, which include more than 300 export items from India, with tariff rate quotas on 88 products counting agriculture, textile, electronics, chemicals and other sectors. These trades will now have market access at preferential custom duties in the island.
Access to both markets, for this extensive list of products at reduced or zero custom duties, opens up opportunities for Indian products to reach the whole African continent, at a very favourable time now that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is in force in the region, but also taking into perspective that Mauritius is already party to economic regional blocks such as SADC and COMESA.
Strengthening the services sector
Mauritius – India economic ties have always been very strong on the services front, with several bilateral agreements in various sectors, financial, tourism, ICT, energy, biotechnology, maritime security, professional services, telecommunication, health, construction, to name a few.
The CECPA gives both countries access to more than 100 subsectors, including insurance and insurance related services, banking and other financial services, telecommunication, professional services such as accounting, auditing, market research, architectural, engineering, veterinary services, distribution services, tourism and travel related services, translation and interpretation services. As Africa continues to attract investors and players from Asia in various start-ups in the services sector, this agreement can be very much beneficial for Indian investors to use Mauritius as an ideal and preferred gateway to access African countries.
The objectives of the CECPA are to strengthen the trade and economic cooperation between the two countries and to promote trading of products and services with enhanced facilities on both sides. It also aims at improving the efficiency and competitiveness of the manufacturing and services sectors of both countries. The CECPA looks at expanding existing bilateral trade and investment, besides revitalising, enhancing and reinforcing economic and social cooperation between the countries.
Additionally, the provision of a framework for mutual collaboration in 25 key areas has been made under the Economic Cooperation chapter of the CECPA, which include manufacturing, pharmaceutical, ICT, financial sector, blue Economy, SME development and joint strategies for investment in Africa. Both countries are aiming to finalise consultations within the next two years of the entry into force of the Agreement after which it will be incorporated therein.
Over the years, Mauritius has been the preferred strategic partner for investment and trading in Africa. Our proximity with the continent, cultural, geographical & economical, has been extremely beneficial for Indian investors and businesses to have a secure platform to set up and manage all their Africa operations. With the CECPA, the AfCFTA and existing ties that Mauritius has within the region, through the SADC & COMESA network, it can ideally become the missing link for the Indian community to gain beneficial access in Africa.
As the investment tendencies in Africa continue to grow over years, Indian companies can now choose to move partially or relocate their headquarters in Mauritius to make the most of its conducive business environment, robust infrastructure and sound & trusted financial & legal ecosystem. Our multilingual workforce definitely adds up our closeness to all the countries within Africa, including the Francophone regions.
For the past decades, Rogers Capital has been facilitating the setting up and management of global companies in Mauritius supporting their investment programs in Africa. We can see the innumerable advantages that these trade agreements can bring to the business community in both India and Mauritius. It is now important to make effective use and leverage on these existing collaterals for the benefit of both countries, herby allowing Mauritius to be that solid bridge between India & Africa.