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AfricaMoney | August 23, 2017

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Mauritius: Trade Facilitation Agreement to boost SMEs in the international market

Mauritius: Trade Facilitation Agreement to boost SMEs in the international market

This agreement can prove to be crucial for the island’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have limited personnel resources to navigate in complex and expensive border procedures. (Image: intracen.org)

The International Trade Centre (ITC) at Geneva recently highlighted that the WTO trade facilitation agreement entered into by Mauritius is key to the competitiveness of the island economy, and is further expected to ease the footprint of its start-ups in the international market.

With the growing emphasis on entrepreneurship in Mauritius, this agreement can prove to be crucial for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which often lack the capacity for personnel resources to navigate in complex and expensive border procedures.

Ambassador Israhyananda Dhalladoo, Permanent Representative of Mauritius to the WTO, highlighted that trade facilitation is a of key importance for countries seeking to take full advantage of market access, trade liberalization, and the economic development opportunities offered by international trade agreements.

“Despite trade openings, our exporters are still facing difficulties in areas such as customs procedures, logistics frameworks, and meeting technical and quality standards in target markets,” he noted.

As the joint agency of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations (UN), the ITC acts as the development partner for small business export success,helping developing economies to become competitive in the international market.

The ITC also eulogised Mauritius as being the first developing country to submit its list of binding trade facilitation commitments to the World Trade Organisation in July 2014, after being amongst the first of 19 countries that ITC assisted with categorising obligations under the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

While simplifying border procedures and cutting red tape promises to substantially reduce trading costs around the globe, especially among developing countries, the capacity of developing country governments to implement these reforms varies considerably.

“This created national momentum around the implementation process and emphasized the need to have a collaborative forum for regular consultation amongst the stakeholders including the private sector,” Dhalladoo explained.

Having sought the input of stakeholders from across the country, the government prepared the implementation plan. This was vetted in a second meeting, involving the business community, before the plan was actually submitted to the WTO, Dhalladoo said.

To facilitate public and private working coordination, the ITC’s approach is to expedite implementation and speedily bring desired benefits to exporters.

“ITC supports developing countries in creating platforms for such dialogue, and in facilitating the engagement of the private sector in various policy areas, including trade facilitation,” said Mohammed Saeed, who heads the trade facilitation practice area at ITC.

It is important that ITC assist as many countries as possible, as this would contribute to the speedy implementation of the Agreement worldwide, Dhalladoo said.

“We look forward to the full implementation of the Agreement not only in Mauritius, but also by our trading partners,” he stressed, adding that, “For an open economy such as ours, seamless borders are key to the international competitiveness of our enterprises.”

Reduced paperwork, advance processing of documents and the quick release of perishable goods are some of the measures that will help the island’s exporters, he added.

Mauritius has requested further assistance in implementing Category B and Category C measures, and looks forward to working with ITC in this area, Dhalladoo concluded.

Overall, the Trade Facilitation Agreement of the WTO concluded in December 2013, can eventually be a vital mechanism to help developing countries and least developed ones to decrease cost related to international trade.

Furthermore, the agreement will create obligations for WTO members to improve customs procedures, transparency and efficiency, as governments will be required to publish information about import-and-export related rules and border procedures, trade-related fees, import duties and appeal procedures available to traders.

Moreover, it will also have to simplify documentation requirements, and limit customs processing fees and charges so that they stay roughly in line with the costs they entail to governments.

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