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Sino-Mauritian bond beyond 50 fabulous years

By Hans Seesaghur | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-04-15 15:41

JIN DING/CHINA DAILY

Mauritius, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, has played a significant role in the development of civilizations by linking China, the Indian subcontinent, Iran, Arab countries, Europe and the Horn of Africa, and facilitating long-distance political and economic relations between different civilizations for nearly two centuries. No wonder Mauritius is called the “Star and Key of the Indian Ocean”.

Mauritius is home to one of the oldest and largest Chinese communities in Africa. Chinese migration to Mauritius can be traced to the 1800s when the island was under British rule. The Chinese community settled mostly in the heart of the capital, Port Louis, and flourished in the trade and commercial sector. After winning independence in 1968, Mauritius has consolidated the cultural bond with China. In fact, Mauritius is the only country in Africa where Chinese Lunar New Year is designated a public holiday.

With great foresight, the older generation of leaders in both countries made the historic handshake across the seas. Both sides hoped to see economic growth and conducted cooperation based on shared interests. This important spirit was embodied in the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mauritius and China on April 15, 1972.

In line with the trend of the times, the two countries have made the right strategic choices, especially under the leadership of both leaders. As a result, economic and commercial relations have developed with greater vigor and dynamism over the past few years.

The Mauritius-China Free Trade Agreement, ratified on Jan 1, 2021, seeks to consolidate the bilateral economic and trade successes achieved under the framework of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, and create a combined market of more than 1.2 billion people and worth $3 trillion. The FTA between the two countries marks the beginning of a new era in economic advancement.

Despite the negative impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on economies around the world since 2020, Mauritius and China have succeeded in elevating their economic relations to new heights, enhancing trade between Africa and Asia with Mauritius as a portal.

Mauritius has signed a wide range of multilateral, regional and bilateral trade agreements, helping Chinese enterprises access preferential markets, exempting or reducing import tariffs, and strengthening the supervision of intellectual property rights. According to Mauritius Bureau of Statistics’ data, the top five import sources of Mauritius in 2021 were China, India, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa and France.

In terms of trade in goods, Mauritius will benefit from the immediate duty-free access to about 7,504 tax items in China’s market after the MCFTA takes effect. And tariffs on 723 items will be phased out in five years starting January 2021. The MCFTA consists of four main components: trade in goods, trade in services, investment and economic cooperation for mutual benefit.

China has always been an important market for Mauritius, with investment between the two countries gaining pace in recent years. According to data from China’s Ministry of Commerce, Chinese direct investment in Mauritius in 2020 was $45.77 million, with Chinese cumulative investment in Mauritius reaching $887 million — mainly in finance, real estate, manufacturing and tourism — by the end of that year.

Adjustments have been made in the scope and degree of trade protection, and the dispute settlement mechanism since the signing of the Mauritius-China investment protection agreement in 1996, so as to provide stronger protection for Chinese enterprises investing in Mauritius and encourage them to increase their investments in Africa through Mauritius.

As a leading investor in Africa, China has relied on Mauritius’ financial services for cross-border investment. Indeed, China’s investment community views Mauritius as a reliable investment hub and many Chinese enterprises have set up branches in Mauritius.

From the perspective of trade, Mauritius looks forward to promoting high-quality Mauritian products in China and taking part in the next China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo. From investment’s perspective, Mauritius plans to organize a number of seminars and conferences with the associations of investors and enterprises in Beijing and Shanghai, and Zhejiang, Guangdong and Shandong provinces.

Moreover, thanks to the increasingly close exchanges and cooperation between the two sides, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the MCFTA and other initiatives, Mauritius aims to encourage Mauritian enterprises to further explore the Chinese market and create favorable conditions for Chinese enterprises to invest in Mauritius, and in Africa through Mauritius.

April 15 marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Sino-Mauratian diplomatic relations. Over the past half a century, the two sides have supported each other and strengthened economic and trade cooperation, setting an example of win-win cooperation in Africa. And they will continue to do so for the next half a century.

The Chinese people believe the best partnership is one that’s dynamic, and has the ability to cope with the changing environment, cash in on new opportunities, and yield mutual benefit.

Mauritius knows that unless there is a bond of friendship, there cannot be economic opportunities, and will work with China to use innovative means to adapt to the changing business climate, in order to elevate bilateral economic and commercial ties to ever higher levels.

To this end, on behalf of Mauritius, I remain committed to strengthening the already strong friendship between Mauritius and China.

The author is Economic & Commercial Counsellor at the Embassy of the Republic of Mauritius in Beijing and China Chief Representative of Economic Development Board of Mauritius Representative Office in China.

The views don’t necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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