Mauritius urges Africa competitiveness ahead of EPA

Mauritius said yesterday that trade deals between Africa and developed economies were insufficient on their own for the world’s poorest continent to reap the benefits of globalisation.
Finance Minister Ramakrishna Sithanen said there was a need to address supply side constraints, boost trade infrastructure and improve global competitiveness.
His comments came as the Indian Ocean Island prepared to sign an interim European Partnership Agreements (EPA) to meet conditions set under new global trade rules.
“Multilateral and bilateral trade initiatives have yet to generate a dynamic export growth in most developing nations,” Sithanen told a two-day business forum bringing together regional policy makers, investors and trade bodies, Reuters reports.
“There is still a conspicuous need for capacity building, for trade facilitation policies and for addressing the various supply side constraints. Africa’s need for more trade infrastructure is still acute.”
Under the WTO rules, the preferential trade deals enjoyed by the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states with the EU are being phased out.
While the EU will offer duty free and quote free access to the EU market, ACP states will be expected to bolster their supply capacity and reduce transaction costs.
Other nations signing up to the interim accord this weekend include Comoros, Madagascar, Seychelles, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Europe remains a key trading partner with Mauritius, traditionally one of Africa’s most stable and prosperous economies, with some 70 % of the Indian Ocean Island`s exports, mainly sugar and textiles, going to EU markets.
“We are confident that the interim EPA will be an effective start to put trade with the EU on a yet stronger footing,” Sithanen said.
He said further outstanding issues including trade in services, cross border investments, competition policy and development would be discussed in further negotiations.
Finance minister since 2006, Sithanen has cut red tape, simplified tax rules and watched on as foreign direct investment inflows over the last two and a half years exceed those of the previous two decades combined.
Africa’s focus, he said, must be global competitiveness, starting at home: “There are still too many barriers to trade and cross border investments among our own countries. We must accelerate the work being done to bring down the remaining non-tariff barriers among our countries.”

Pic: Farmer in Africa