August 5, 2009
8th Annual AGOA Forum
*AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY*
Today is an important day in the U.S.-Mauritius economic relationship, and it comes at an important time. International trade and investment flows - which have grown consistently in recent years - are now challenged by the current global economic crisis.
A Bilateral Investment Treaty will promote investment and deepen the already strong economic ties between the United States and Mauritius. It will also reinforce the efforts of one of Africa's strongest performers on trade and investment liberalization, and economic reform.
Mauritius is a positive model of how trade and investment can fuel economic growth and development. The Government of Mauritius has an impressive track record on democracy, economic growth, openness to foreign direct investment, economic diversification, and the expansion of trade.
Mauritius has developed from a low-income, agriculturally based economy to a middle-income, diversified economy with growing industrial, financial, and tourist sectors. This remarkable achievement is a result of a series of economic development strategies that have focused on encouraging trade, economic reforms, and a strong financial, telecommunications, and services sector.
In the context of our two countries' bilateral relationship, Mauritius has undertaken significant efforts to diversify and increase its trade and investment with the United States. And Mauritius has succeeded in the development of new products and sectors, including diamond processing, aquaculture, sunglass and eyewear manufacturing, and jewelry production. These efforts have attracted significant investment. Since 2004, the U.S. direct investment position in Mauritius has increased nearly 700 percent.
Mauritius is a major beneficiary and a strong partner on AGOA. Indeed, Mauritius hosted the first AGOA Forum in Africa. AGOA has sparked significant investment in Mauritius, and Mauritian investors have made major AGOA-related investments throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
As many of you know, the United States and Mauritius signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, or 'TIFA' in 2006. This serves as a mechanism for the United States and Mauritius to develop practical strategies on a wide range of trade and investment issues.
Today's announcement is, in part, the result of cooperation under the TIFA. It is under the TIFA that we began discussing the possibility of a BIT, and conducted several rounds of exploratory discussions and information exchanges. Today's launch is a result of the dedication and hard work of a good interagency team working on both sides.
I look forward to working very closely with the Government of Mauritius to ensure success. The BIT negotiations we launch today will serve as an important tool to promote investment and deepen our two countries' economic ties.