Discusses key economic indicators and trade statistics, which countries are dominant in the market, and other issues that affect trade.
Mauritius is a small island nation with a population of 1.3 million people. It has one of the most successful and competitive economies in Africa with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $14.18 billion and per capita Gross National Income (GNI) of $12,740 in 2019. In July 2020, the World Bank classified Mauritius as a high-income country based on 2019 data, but in July 2021 it relegated Mauritius back to upper-middle income country status to reflect the effects of COVID-19. Mauritius’ GNI per capita for 2020 was estimated at $10,230, a 20.6 percent decline over the 2019 figure, driven by a 15 percent contraction in GDP and net foreign income. The GDP in 2020 was estimated at $10.91 billion. Tourism, manufacturing, and retail were the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic. The IMF forecasted that the economy would rebound with 5 percent growth in 2021, assuming some recovery in tourism.
According to several surveys and metrics, Mauritius is among the freest and most business-friendly countries in Africa. The 2021 Index of Economic Freedom, published by the Heritage Foundation, ranks Mauritius first in the Sub-Saharan Africa region among 47 countries and 13th globally. For the 12th consecutive year, the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report ranked Mauritius first among African countries and 13th globally, seven positions better than in 2019. Mauritius gained 30 places in the Global Innovation Index Report 2020, jumping from 82nd to 52nd position, securing 1st place in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The most important sectors of the Mauritian economy are textiles, tourism, financial and business services, information and communication technology, seafood processing, real estate development, energy, and education/training. The government of Mauritius (GoM) is emphasizing innovation as the basis for long-term growth. Mauritius claims an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 2.3 million square kilometers, but its undisputed EEZ amounts to approximately 1.3 million square kilometers, in addition to jointly managing about 388,000 square kilometers of continental shelf with Seychelles. The GoM has aspirations for the ocean economy to play a significant role in its economic development. Before COVID-19, authorities planned to stimulate economic growth in five areas: serving as a gateway for investment into Africa, increasing the use of renewable energy, developing smart cities, growing the blue economy, and modernizing infrastructure, especially public transportation, the port, and the airport. Due to the pandemic, however, the government’s focus in 2020 and 2021 has been to rebuild existing sectors. The government has also announced plans to promote investments in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, in the renewable energy sector, and in the data technology sector.
Most bilateral trade between Mauritius and the United States is from Mauritius to the United States, particularly textiles under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA). Total two-way trade between Mauritius and the United States was valued at $301 million in 2020. Mauritian exports to the United States totaled $251 million in 2020 and the United States is currently the third-largest export market for Mauritius, behind France and the United Kingdom, receiving 10.8 percent of total Mauritian exports. Mauritius’ main exports to the United States are textiles and apparel, precious stones and jewelry, processed fish, live primates, sunglasses, and cane sugar. Mauritius imported $50 million in goods from the United States in 2020. The principal U.S. exports to Mauritius included industrial chemicals (fused magnesia), industrial/agricultural machinery, liquefied butane and propane, precious stones and jewelry, medical instruments, turkey, almonds, oak wood, and aircraft parts. Mauritius’ main sources of imported goods are India, China, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, and France.
Mauritian exports are eligible for preferential access to markets of: (i) the South African Development Community (SADC); (ii) the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA); (iii) the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC – preferences to Madagascar only); (iv) Europe (under the EU-East Africa Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)); (v) the United States (under AGOA); (vi) Japan, Norway, Switzerland, the United States, and the Customs Union among Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP); (vii) Turkey under the Mauritius-Turkey Free Trade Agreement, and (viii) Pakistan under the Mauritius-Pakistan Preferential Trade Agreement. In addition, a Mauritius-China free trade agreement went into effect on January 1, 2021. Mauritius and India also signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in February 2021 and it took effect in April 2021. Mauritius ratified the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in October 2019 and trading under the AfCFTA started on January 1, 2021. The UK-Eastern Southern Africa (ESA) EPA also entered into force in January 2021 after the Brexit transitional period ended. This EPA, which Mauritius, Seychelles, and Zimbabwe signed in January 2019, is a continuity agreement based on the EU-ESA interim Economic Partnership Agreement (iEPA) and aims to safeguard the trade preferences that Mauritius benefited from under the iEPA with the European Union. Negotiations for a preferential trade agreement with Indonesia were ongoing. The Government of Mauritius has repeatedly asked Post about negotiations for a free trade agreement with the United States.