Nairobi, Kenya - U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced today that the United States and Mauritius will begin formal negotiations toward a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) that would strengthen investor protections and encourage the continuation of market-oriented economic reforms in Mauritius.
Ambassador Kirk and Secretary Clinton announced the launch of the BIT negotiations during the African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum in Nairobi, Kenya.
"Mauritius is one of the most economically successful and politically stable countries in Africa. It has an impressive track record on democracy, economic growth, openness to foreign direct investment, economic diversification, and the expansion of trade. The proposed U.S.-Mauritius BIT will help reinforce the efforts of one of Africa's strongest performers on trade and economic reform, and help improve Mauritius's already favorable investment climate by providing high standards of investment protection," said Ambassador Kirk.
Mauritian Minister of Industry, Science, and Research Dharambeer Gokhool also spoke at the ceremony. Representatives of the U.S. and Mauritian private sectors and civil society also attended.
Bilateral investment treaties are one of many tools that the Obama Administration is using to assist reform-minded African countries. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), Trade and Investment Framework Agreements, and U.S. trade capacity building assistance are also helping African countries to grow their economies through increased trade and investment.
The Administration is conducting a review of the U.S. model BIT, which is expected to conclude this fall. This ongoing review is intended to ensure that the U.S. model BIT is consistent with the public interest and the overall U.S. economic agenda. Talks between the United States and Mauritius before the conclusion of the review will proceed at the technical level.
Bilateral investment treaties are legally binding treaties that provide significant legal protections for investors and investments in BIT partner countries. The U.S. BIT program encourages the adoption of market-oriented domestic policies that treat private investment in an open, transparent, and non-discriminatory way. These protections have special importance in developing countries, where BITs help to increase investor confidence and thereby facilitate foreign investment and enhance economic growth.
The United States has five BITs in force in sub-Saharan Africa (with Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, the Republic of Congo, and Senegal) out of a total of 40 U.S. BITs in force worldwide. In February 2008, the United States and Rwanda signed a BIT, which is currently pending Senate advice and consent.
In September 2006, the United States and Mauritius signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which established a regular, high-level forum to address a wide range of trade and investment issues. The idea of negotiating a U.S.-Mauritius BIT arose out of TIFA discussions.
A BIT would strengthen the existing bilateral economic relationship between the United States and Mauritius. Total two-way trade between Mauritius and the United States was valued at $227.7 million in 2008. Leading Mauritian exports to the United States include textile and apparel, cut diamonds and jewelry, live animals, prepared fish, optical and medical instruments, and perfume. The leading U.S. exports to Mauritius include wheat, diamonds and jewelry, and machinery. In 2008, Mauritian exports under AGOA and the Generalized System of Preferences were valued at $101.7 million.
At year-end 2007, the U.S. direct investment position in Mauritius was $2.9 billion, an increase of 83 percent from 2006. Since 2004, the U.S. direct investment position in Mauritius has increased nearly 700 percent.