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India, Mauritius to sign preferential trade pact

Reuters, Sunday, October 23, 2005

India, Mauritius to sign preferential trade pact

PORT LOUIS: Mauritius and India are expected to sign a preferential trade agreement (PTA) to boost the island’s exports and provide India with the opportunity to tap into African markets, senior officials said on Saturday.

A framework for the pact is expected to be signed by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Mauritian counterpart Navin Ramgoolan during a visit to India next week.

“Mauritius has identified a number of products with export potential, which we hope to export to India under the Preferential Trade Access Agreement between the two countries,” said Rajesh Jeetah, Mauritius’ industry minister.

The pact will list a number of products which the two countries can trade at low or zero tariffs and officials say India is interested in exporting pharmaceuticals, agricultural machinery, automobiles and spare parts. India’s exports to Mauritius reached 6.9 billion rupees ($228 million) in 2004, making it Mauritius’ third biggest supplier, while Mauritian exports to India doubled last year to 500 million rupees ($16.50 million).

About one-third of the total foreign direct investment into India - around $8.86 billion over the past 13 years - is routed through Mauritius because of an agreement to prevent double taxation.

Tapping other markets: Mauritius, located off the southeast coast of Africa, is expected to lose foreign revenue with the end of preferential access to lucrative western markets that its sugar and textiles exports have enjoyed for over 30 years.

It now wants to make more inroads in India, and provide it with a base to explore markets in Asia. While Mauritius, with its 1.2 million population, is a small market for India, Indian businessmen say it can act as a bridge between India and Africa. Mauritius belongs to two regional economic blocs - COMESA and SADC - that provides preferential access to a large number of African countries.

“We know that there is keen interest among Indian companies to use Mauritius as a production base to benefit from preferential access to this important market of more than 200 million,” said Lloyd Coombes, president of Mauritius’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Prime Minister Ramgoolam is also expected to sign other agreements with India during his visit which include consumer protection, legal assistance, the transfer of prisoners and cooperation in oil exploration in Mauritian waters.

Thailand, India get back to FTA talks in November: Thailand and India will seek to end an impasse over sensitive trade items when they resume bilateral free trade talks next month, Thailand’s deputy chief negotiator Chana Kanaratanadilok said on Friday in Bangkok.

The two countries had set a March deadline for an agreement, but negotiations stalled over some 1,000 items each country wants excluded from the pact.

“It will be the same story - sensitive lists and rules of origin,” Chana told Reuters. A firm date has not been agreed for the November meeting in India, he said, their first talks since Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra visited New Dehli in May seeking to put the deal back on track.

Talks stalled after India put more than 1,000 items on its sensitive list compared with Thailand’s 100. Bangkok responded by expanding its list to 1,000 items.

 source: Daily Times