Thank you so much, Secretary Carson. (Applause.)
Well, I’m very happy to be here for this occasion. I think the remarks that have already been put forth, particularly by the minister, illustrate the commitment that Mauritius has had over a number of years, going back to the 1980s, to the ingredients that build a good business climate and attract investments. And we are here to embark on the next step in that relationship.
I’m very grateful to be here with Assistant Secretary Carson and Ambassador Kirk to announce the start of formal negotiations toward a bilateral investment treaty between Mauritius and the United States, often known as a BIT. First time I heard that, I thought it had something to do with horses – (laughter) – but it has to do with increasing business and investment opportunities.
When President Obama addressed the Ghanaian parliament, he said that the United States can do more to promote trade and investment in Africa. Negotiations like this one are a very important step in that direction. We seek to invest for the benefit of African nations as well as for our own. A better investment climate helps create jobs, sparks new industries, and drives broad-based, inclusive growth. Especially during this global economic crisis, as countries on every continent strive to recover, we know that there are certain steps that can be taken even during a recession that will better position a country for the future: diversification, which we spoke about at the opening session of AGOA; seeking and earning foreign investment, is a critical source of capital; looking for the partnerships that will create new opportunities for technology to blossom, for entrepreneurs and their ideas find markets.
Mauritius has taken steps in recent years to attract investment by enacting reforms that protect investors and promote business. They’ve made it easier to launch start-ups, to access credit, and to register property. They’ve demonstrated a commitment to transparency, accountability, and good governance. Now, the people of Mauritius have been the primary beneficiaries of these reforms; it does help to unlock human potential and to create conditions where people feel that their hard work will actually be rewarded. And so investment in Mauritius has already increased. And in fact, as I think Ambassador Kirk said, Mauritius has attracted more investment in the last three years than it did in the preceding twenty years.
President Obama and I share a belief that investment and trade should not be ends in themselves but tools to actually spread development and opportunity deep within societies. As I just said at the AGOA Forum, we seek to integrate our strategy for development with our trade and investment policies. It is something that we think makes good sense. It is not possible to separate them one from the other. Done right, negotiations like this will enhance the investment climate.
There are many ways that the Obama Administration intends to demonstrate its commitment to Africa, and we will do that in large ways and small. But this investment treaty is a real example that we would like others to look at and see what steps need to be taken to move along this path with us. We have with other partners in Sub-Saharan Africa, such as Mozambique and Rwanda. And we hope to collaborate with other AGOA partners, such as Ghana, to deepen trade and investment ties – including work that could lead to bilateral investment treaties.
Now, Mauritius may be a small country, but it has the potential to make a big impact, both by contributing to Africa’s overall prosperity and by showing the way, providing an example of how other nations can stimulate growth by setting clear and fair rules for the benefit of those who wish to do business in Mauritius.
I think that the Mauritian Government deserves a real vote of congratulations from us, because it wasn’t easy getting here. This is not something that you wake up and say, well, I think we’ll try to create the climate for bilateral investment treaties. And there were, I think, circumstances along the way that seemed somewhat daunting. But the perseverance and persistence that has been demonstrated by the Mauritian Government over the years has paid off. There are no easy or quick fixes. AGOA provides a framework that is not yet fully utilized and which we are urging every country that is a partner with us to be creative, to look for ways to enhance business and investment opportunities. And then to move on to the bilateral investment treaty prospect provide even more opportunities.
So I congratulate the Mauritian Government on this step today. I look forward to additional collaboration. But I also welcome and invite other countries as well. A long, hard journey starts with a first step. The AGOA countries have taken that step, but now we want to work with you, and Ambassador Kirk and Assistant Secretary Carson and I view our presence here today not as a stopover, but as an ongoing commitment. We are ready to work with countries and businesses to help you take greater advantage of AGOA, and we are ready to work with any country that wants to take the same path that Mauritius has taken to this day as well.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)