Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk 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. Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Kirk announced the launch of the BIT negotiations at an event during the African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum in Nairobi, Kenya.
“As President Obama said in Ghana a few weeks ago, America can do more to promote investment in Africa,” Secretary Clinton said. “Our negotiation of a BIT with Mauritius is a step in that direction, and is in keeping with our broader interest in engaging other potential BIT partners in Africa. That interest is also reflected in the ongoing exploratory talks with Ghana, Nigeria, and Gabon. Mauritius can be justly proud of its success in implementing economic reforms that a BIT require, and serves as an important example to other African countries.”
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.
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 (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 currently is pending Senate advice and consent.
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.