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New Mauritius PM wants Sugar, Textiles Deals

Published date:
Wednesday, 06 July 2005

Faced with twin threats to its prosperous economy, Mauritius's newly-elected Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam said he would negotiate hard for better world trade deals for its sugar and textile industries.

In an interview with Reuters shortly after winning elections on Monday night, Ramgoolam said he would plead with rich countries to resurrect accords giving Mauritius preferential access to their markets for two of its most important exports.

"One priority is the problem of negotiation with the European Union on sugar," he said. "We are not making ourselves heard."

Ramgoolam's Social Alliance beat outgoing Prime Minister Paul Berenger's incumbent Mauritian Militant Movement-Militant Socialist Movement coalition, taking 38 seats out of a total of 62 in counting from Sunday's vote.

The elections took place amid discontent at rising unemployment and inflation as the loss of preferential trade deals menace the economy of the Indian Ocean island, which is relatively well-off compared to the rest of Africa.

Mauritius this year suffered a double blow of 40% cuts in European Union sugar subsidies plus fierce Chinese competition in textiles -- its top export -- following the end of World Trade Organisation quotas on China.

Ramgoolam accused the outgoing government of failing to argue Mauritius's case. "I think we haven't yet negotiated with them. We have just accepted things," he said, speaking just hours after celebrating his win at a victory rally.

In its election pledge, the government promised to appeal to the United States to benefit from a clause under a special tariff for African countries' textiles exports allowing them to import cloth from a third country.

Ramgoolam said he would do the same. "We are going to try for a much better deal for Mauritius on textiles under the AGOA (Africa Growth and Opportunities Act) agreement."

But analysts warn that negotiating with world trade bodies at a time when they are getting tough on preferential deals could be a tall order for Mauritius.

The US, business groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have heaped pressure on Europe to reform its sugar sector, saying it unfairly distorts markets.

Even if Mauritius got itself included under the AGOA clause allowing the import of cloth from a third country, the clause runs out in 2007. After that, cloth has to be imported from the US where it is too expensive, or from other AGOA countries which don't make enough of it.

Reiterating his party's promise to "democratise the economy", Ramgoolam said the government would work on opening up access to markets for a greater number of Mauritians.

"We need to take everyone on board. We are going to get better access," he said.

A lack of competition was partly to blame for Mauritius' economic troubles, he said. "You can't have a few businesses controlling everything. You need to have competition."

He said he would open up the island's terrestrial TV stations, currently consisting of two state-owned channels, to competition with private TV channels.

Ramgoolam's party promised a programme of reform of access to land, much of which, it says, is currently owned or leased by "a handful of wealthy families", who are largely Franco-Mauritian descendants of ex-colonists and slave owners.

Ramgoolam said he would negotiate with them to free up land to small businessmen.

"Some (landowners) have already accepted that we need to have competition for the economy to grow," he said.

“AGOA Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of Mauritius’ bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include: (click each link to view)

  • AGOA-Beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.

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