Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 December 2011
The problem in context
In 2004 Mauritius, a small island state located thousands of kilometres from its major markets, was facing two major challenges: the probable erosion of preferential treatment for its main export product (sugar) and a serious disruption to its textile and apparel industry, as a result of the impending expiration of the global restraint system that encouraged producers to seek out locations that could benefit from marginal quota allocations. In addition to the likelihood of less favourable access for sugar in the European Communities (EC), the Mauritian sugar industry faced the prospect of stiff competition in the future from Brazil and new-to-market entrants benefiting from the EC's ‘Everything but Arms’ (EBA) initiatives.
Many of the island nation's problems could have been anticipated at the time it underwent a WTO trade policy review in 2001. Paragraph 20 of theWTOSecretariat's Executive Summary put the situation well at that time:
Mauritius' participation in the multilateral trading system and in various regional agreements reflects its interests as a small, export-oriented economy with advantages in a few products, sugar, textiles and clothing in particular. As part of its economic success is due to preferential market access granted by major trading partners, Mauritius is taking steps to adjust to changes in this international environment.
Notwithstanding its considerable geographic disadvantage and the shocks sustained by the traditional pillars ofits economy, Mauritius is a success story. The degree of success achieved is particularly evident when this country is compared to other island states with similar resource limitations.