India signed its first free trade and investment agreement with an African country on 23rd February, 2021. This parties to the agreement are India and Mauritius.
This is the first free trade pact India signed since 2011. The India- Mauritius Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA)
“will provide a timely boost for the revival of our post-Covid economies and also enable Indian investors to use Mauritius as a launch pad for business expansion into continental Africa helping the prospect of Mauritius emerging as a ‘hub of Africa’” as per S Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs for India.
Earlier, Piyush Goyal, the Commerce and Industry Minister of India had said that, “There is a huge scope for manifold increase in Indian Investments in the wake of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA),” adding “We can mutually benefit through establishment of India-African value chains in many areas such as textiles, pharma, auto, agro processing and information and communication technology”.
Although the details of the agreement are yet to go public as Mauritius is yet to ratify the document but what can be assumed from the existing details is that the India-Mauritius CECPA shall serve as a limited agreement that will be in effect for only a few selective sectors. It shall govern Trade in Goods, Rules of Origin, Trade in Service, Technical Barriers to Trade, Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, Dispute Settlement, etc.
This would help India to increase the market access at concessional customs duties for more than 300 domestic goods. This will also provide the Indian service providers to have access to around 115 sub-sectors from the 11 broad service sectors like professional service, computer related services, research & development, other business services, etc.
On the other hand, this is a welcome move for Mauritius as it will now benefit from preferential market access into India for its 615 products that shall be inclusive of frozen fish, speciality sugar, biscuits, fresh fruits, juices, mineral water, beer, alcoholic drinks, soaps, bags, medical and surgical equipment, and apparel.
Apart from this, there has been an agreement between both the countries to negotiate an Automatic Trigger Safeguard Mechanism (ATSM) within two years of the signing of the agreement for certain products categorised as ‘highly sensitive’. ATSM basically acts as a protection for the country in circumstances where there are any sudden or dramatic increase in imports. In cases where the imports of a certain product is rising alarmingly, then on reaching the threshold, the nation facing such an increase can impose safeguard duties on the imports from the other country.
It is important to note that the India-Mauritius CECPA is a significant step with regards to strengthening the relation between the nations that play significant role in the Indian Ocean. Both the countries are equally aware of the evolving landscape of the Indian Ocean which has given rise to new challenges and opportunities to the countries bordering it. This agreement is in sync with their maritime identity and geostrategic value. This is a step in compliance with Mission Sagar.
By signing the CECPA, both the countries are not only aiming at getting their economies to have a much needed boost in the post-Covid era but at the same time are consolidating their relations in a more significant manner when it comes to foreign policy and the Indian Ocean.
With Vaccine diplomacy and other military deals in place, India and Mauritius are setting off to a new era of business and cooperation and shall try to capitalize on this in the future.
The way forward should be carefully crafted policy and ratification of the documents of trade so that it gives a boost to respective economies at large.