Port Louis (Mar): India and Mauritius are jointly working to find out a mutually acceptable and beneficial outcome on the Comprehensive Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) which will be a "win-win" situation for both, President Pranab Mukherjee has said.
Mukherjee, who is here on a three-day visit, said the Double Taxation Avoidance Convention (DTAC) cannot be seen in isolation, separate from the many strands that weave the tapestry of India-Mauritius relationship and efforts, and it should remain focused on realisation of the full potential of the bilateral ties.
"The Joint Working Group (JWG) on the DTAC has met twice in the last one year which has provided an opportunity for both sides to discuss the means forward to a mutually acceptable and beneficial outcome - a win-win situation for both. India looks forward to holding the next meeting of the JWG in New Delhi," he said in an interview to Mauritius newspaper 'Le Matinal'.
He was replying to a question on the criticism of DTAA and upto what extent such criticism was justified and any possible changes that needed to be brought to the DTAA. Asked about the progress on the proposed Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) between India and Mauritius, he said the two countries are engaged in negotiations for a successful CECPA to evolve ways and means to further stimulate trade and investment between them.
Commenting on the economic relations between India and Mauritius, Mukherjee said the bilateral cooperation in the economic and commercial areas has grown but needs to be further reinvigorated.
"India has been the largest exporter of goods and services to Mauritius since 2007. As far as 2011-2012 is concerned, our official figures indicate that India exported goods worth USD 1.4 billion to Mauritius and imported goods worth USD 39.13 million from Mauritius.
"These figures mean that India has now become Mauritius' largest trading partner. Our trade figures also suggest the need for our two countries to expand and diversify our trade basket," he said.
Mukherjee said there are vast opportunities and complementaries in sectors like agro-processing, manufacturing, infrastructure, drugs and pharmaceuticals, light engineering, textiles, medical equipment, renewable energy technologies, marine food, automobile parts, tourism and hospitality, IT and ITES, Indian traditional medicine etc.
"The bilateral economic package of USD 270 million (USD 250 million Line of Credit and USD 20 million grant), announced during the state visit of Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam in February 2012 could serve as a platform to diversify and energise our trade and investment linkages," he said.
The President said India has participated in various developmental activities and projects in Mauritius in the past. These are visible all over the island be it the Cyber Tower in Ebene, the Swami Vivekananda International Convention Centre, the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre, the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital or the Mahatma Gandhi Institute besides others.
"Both countries, at the same time, need to work together to create an environment conducive to the creation of more joint venture projects of developmental import. As in the past, India is keen to partner with Mauritius in the realisation of several large infrastructure and development projects which are on the anvil," he said.
Asked how favourable is the investment climate for the willing Mauritians in India, Mukherjee, himself a former Finance Minister, said since the 1990s, India has been incrementally liberalising the investment climate and more recently, in September 2012, the Government of India ushered in a slew of reforms.
"The budget 2013-14, which has been tabled in Parliament, acknowledges that FDI is imperative for India. Over the last two decades, several measures to attract FDI from all over the world have been undertaken making India one of the most attractive destinations for FDI in the world," he added.
Asked whether Mauritius can serve as a springboard into Africa for India, Mukherjee said Indian overseas investments to Africa are beginning to be channelled through Mauritius.
He said Mauritius, with its preferential and trading arrangements as well as export zones could attract Indian SMEs engaged in the field of pharmaceuticals, light engineering, consumer goods, textiles, seafood processing, etc.
"The members of SADC and COMESA in mainland Africa could be the main target market. The Indian and Mauritian private sector should explore how the FTAs Mauritius has with the SADC and COMESA countries can be used to our mutual advantage. Opportunities and fiscal incentives offered by the export zones of Mauritius would also be helpful in this regard," he said.