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UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Mauritius was back in the island in the first week of October, and answered our questions on important topics such as the Strategic Trade Partnership (STP) with Mauritius, the post pandemic global economic landscape, and the impact of the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war

We are talking of production of vaccine and medicine, but also of investment. How do you assess the potential of Mauritius?

You have returned to Mauritius for the Africa Partnership Conference (APC). Could you share the main points of your speech at the conference with our readers?

I was delighted to return to Mauritius this month, my second visit as the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy. The Africa Partnership Conference (APC) was a fantastic opportunity to meet old and new friends from Mauritius and across the continent who understand the power of building strong trade ties between nations. My core message is simple: the UK is committed to working with Mauritius and with partners across the continent to enhance opportunities for the future.

The work the UK and Mauritius have done over the past year to grow our trade relationship is an excellent demonstration of the strength of our commitment. In April, the UK and Mauritius signed a Strategic Trade Partnership (STP), a landmark agreement that will take our already robust trade relationship (worth MUR 40 billion) to new heights.

We want to keep doing more because we understand that working closely together benefits everyone. Platforms like the APC are critical for the achievement of these shared ambitions. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate

Could you explain why the UK-Mauritius relationship is strategically significant for the UK’s investment and economic strategy in Africa?

Rt Hon James Cleverly MP, the UK Foreign Secretary, has emphasised that the UK wants to drive future-focussed, mutually beneficial partnerships with African countries, strengthening our business links and growing our economies together. That is exactly the kind of partnership we have with Mauritius, and it is one we want to expand.

Mauritius may be small in size but it is a leading economic force and a beacon of democracy and growth across the whole continent. Mauritius is ranked first in Africa on the Ease of Doing Business index, and its performance in other priority sectors including financial services and renewable energy is laudable. We want to build further on our partnership with Mauritius, focusing on sectors such as green energy and clean infrastructure. The STP will enable us to realise the huge ambition and potential of our bilateral partnership, and I am committed to driving it forward.

Supporting Mauritius’ efforts and capacity to address global challenges will have a positive impact on other nations in Africa as well.

What is your assessment of the situation post-lockdown? How much does the pandemic continue to affect the global trade sector?

COVID-19 was an unprecedented challenge. Millions of lives were tragically lost, international air traffic came to a halt, and the global economy plunged. The international community must continue to work together to recover and to build back stronger. We learned many lessons from the pandemic, including our ability to come together and to be resilient. International trade has recovered well since 2021, but there are still challenges.

Despite significant headwinds, Africa’s real GDP growth is projected to stabilise at 4% in 2023–24, a slight increase from 2022. Average inflation is projected to decline from around 14% in 2022 — the highest in more than a decade — to around 9% in 2024. This is good news. However, we cannot forget that Africa’s stable growth outlook is still threatened by several challenges, including the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This continues to disrupt global supply chains and drive food and energy price inflation higher. I know that Mauritius, as a Small Island Developing State, has particularly felt the negative impact of these events.

Tackling and recovering from the lingering effects of the pandemic is one of the many reasons why our Strategic Trade Partnership is so important.

Considering the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict, how is the U.K. coping?

The UK, like Mauritius and many other countries, continues to feel the effects of Russia’s unprovoked aggression in Ukraine. Across the world, we have seen a surge in cost of living, an energy crisis and large-scale disruption in supply chains. The consequences of Russia’s aggression have hit the global poor the hardest, and have exacerbated many of the negative trends caused by the pandemic.

The UK and our allies are taking action. We have committed almost MUR 21.6 billion overall, including MUR 11.9 billion in humanitarian assistance. We are providing military aid to Ukraine, continuing to work with international partners to supply the Ukrainian Armed Forces with the vital weapons they need. The UK has also changed our immigration system to support British nationals and their families who normally live in Ukraine, and Ukrainians in the UK and their families. And we continue to deliver an unprecedented package of sanctions to target Putin’s war machine.

My intention is that the UK and Mauritius can use the Strategic Trade Partnership to help tackle the difficult global economic headwinds we continue to experience as a result of Russia’s invasion.

What attracts you in the role of UK

Mauritius has shown unwavering commitment to the fight against money laundering and cyber-enabled crime.

During your visit last April, you met with senior government officials and industry leaders. Can you share the main topics of these discussions, and your takeaways from them?

The main purpose of my first visit to Mauritius in April was to sign and launch the STP, which is now a central feature of the UK-Mauritius trade relationship. I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet Hon. Prime Minister Jugnauth, both in April and again this month, and to discuss our priorities for future UK-Mauritius collaboration. I also met a wide range of industry leaders, both from the UK and Mauritius, to discuss how we can work together to expand and grow our trade ties. My visit this month was an excellent opportunity to catch up with the wide range of ministries and industries working on the STP, and to help galvanise action in key areas.

I am looking forward to returning again in the near future.

The STP emphasizes sectors like pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and agri-tech. Could you expand on this focus and what we can anticipate in the long term?

As I’ve outlined, the STP covers six priority sectors: financial and professional services; education and training; pharmaceutical, biotech and healthcare; the green economy and waste management; cyber; and agri-tech and food security. Our governments agreed these sectors should be our focus following an assessment of specific needs, and the expertise the UK can bring to the table as a global trade leader.

I am proud that the UK’s Department for Business and Trade signed an MoU with the Mauritius Institute of Biotechnology Ltd earlier this year to help boost cooperation in the field of vaccine development, and other key medical areas. The pandemic has taught us the vital importance of preparedness in this area. The global biotechnology market is expected to be worth MUR 153 trillion by 2030, while the global pharmaceuticals industry was worth MUR 18 trillion in 2021. Together, we can capitalise on these markets.

In terms of financial services and cybersecurity, we’re seeing a rapid emergence of new technologies and virtual assets. How does the UK-Mauritius trade relationship factor into these sectors?

Around 80% of our bilateral trade is services, and these are mostly financial and professional services – hence their centrality to the STP. We have been supporting both private and public institutions in efforts to partner with professional training bodies in the UK, to address the need for skills in the Mauritian market. Another key area of cooperation in this space is Fintech, where we recently facilitated an MOU between the UK Fintech Alliance and the Mauritius Africa Fintech hub. This will be an important tool for helping us realise our joint ambitions in this exciting sector.

Mauritius is seen globally as a regional leader in financial services. It has well-established financial services, information, and communications technology industries. Attracting investment and growth in new technologies is vital for the advancement of the financial services sector.

But we must also acknowledge that these technological developments come with associated risks and necessary regulation. Financial crime, money laundering and sanctions evasion are global issues that affect our societies, our people, and threaten the integrity of our economies. Mauritius has shown unwavering commitment to the fight against money laundering and cyber-enabled crime. From virtual assets to terrorist financing, sanctions to supervision, I am proud that the UK has supported these efforts by providing technical assistance to Mauritius.

What attracts you in the role of UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Mauritius, and what challenges do you face in this position?

It is a great honour to be the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Mauritius. I have had the privilege to visit and to learn about Mauritius, and to help grow a partnership that holds such huge potential.

The role of the Trade Envoy, first and foremost, is to support the UK’s trade and investment objectives by working closely with the public and private sectors across Mauritius. Since taking on the role, I have worked to develop ties between our two nations, helping UK businesses navigate the Mauritian market, and creating connections and links between key public and private sector actors.

I am pleased and proud that, since my last visit in April, our bilateral links have grown stronger. In addition to the UK-Mauritius Strategic Trade Partnership, we have delivered a visit to Mauritius by the UK Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA). The IPA has been working closely with the Mauritian government to enhance the delivery of world-class infrastructure in Mauritius, and to boost private sector investment. UK Export Finance (UKEF) for Southern Africa also visited Mauritius to present the UK’s unparalleled export finance offer, including discussions around how Mauritius can access up to MUR 162 billion to finance local projects. We are also working towards an MOU on health cooperation between King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (UK) and the Ministry of Health and Wellness (Mauritius).

The APC – superbly hosted by Mauritius – was yet another opportunity to connect thriving Mauritian and UK businesses. I’m glad to say that the continued efforts of the hard-working team at the British High Commission have proved immensely helpful so far in delivering on our shared trade ambitions.

Can you discuss the Strategic Trade Partnership (STP) between the UK and Mauritius that you signed last April? Could you provide an overview of the trade relationship between the two countries and suggest how we might develop it further?

As your readers will know, the UK and Mauritius share a bilateral trade relationship worth MUR 40 billion annually. Mauritius is the UK’s sixth largest export partner in Africa. We are your second biggest market worldwide. I am proud that British institutions and businesses such as Princes Tuna support over 55,000 Mauritian jobs.

The STP will enable us to take our trade relationship to new heights. The agreement is critical for delivering tangible results across six key sectors: financial and professional services; education and training; pharmaceutical, biotech and healthcare; the green economy and waste management; cyber; and agri-tech and food security. The STP is a clear demonstration of the UK’s commitment to working with Mauritius to push new frontiers of innovation and develop opportunities for the industries of the future.

Waste management and the green economy are also crucial sectors. Do you believe Mauritius is on the right path? Where might improvements be needed?

The UK fully supports Mauritius’ green transition. It is clear to me that Mauritius is on the right track, and the UK has been pleased to support your efforts. For example, in July this year, we welcomed Mauritius and eleven other African partner countries to the UK for a Decarbonisation Roadshow, which aimed to build partnerships that support decarbonisation in the energy and infrastructure sectors. Attendees visited London, Scotland, Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Sheffield, and Manchester to hear about decarbonisation technologies and to discuss innovative approaches to key finance issues. We were also pleased to show them ongoing decarbonisation projects in the operations of sustainable mining and infrastructure sub-sectors like rail, ports, and airports.

Tackling the climate crisis is a top priority for the UK too, and we are fully supportive of Mauritius’ ambitious green energy transition by 2030.

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