National Day celebrated in Washington and Toronto
National Day celebrated in Washington and Toronto,
(Le Mauricien) Mauritians and friends of Mauritius gathered in Washington on Friday, March 15 to celebrate 45 years of Mauritian independence. The National Day event was hosted by Honorable Somduth Soborun and his wife Omila at the embassy residence in a suburb of the U.S. capital.
It was an opportunity to Mauritians to reconnect with their homeland and their compatriots. Among the 135 guests were also members of the African diplomatic corps, officials of the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office and staff from congressional committees that oversee African affairs.
“We are working with Congress and are in close collaboration with African ambassadors to assure renewal of AGOA (the African Growth and Opportunity Act,” which expires in 2015, the ambassador said during a break in the festivities. “The reauthorization process is starting and we are looking at ways to improve AGOA.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement on the occasion of National Day, calling it a “well-deserved opportunity for Mauritians to commemorate their heritage of democracy, religious tolerance and rule of law.”
He also noted that Mauritius and the United States share a long history of friendly relations and commended the role that Mauritius has played in curbing piracy in the region.
“The United States welcomes Mauritius’recent efforts in support of maritime security in the Indian Ocean,” he said. “We look forward to continued economic cooperation rooted in the principles of fair competition and transparent business practices. We trust that Mauritius will continue to stand as a example of progress.”
The mayor of Washington, D.C. also issued a similar statement.
Up north in Canada, Club M, Regroupement Mauricien de Toronto, also celebrated the holiday, as well as its own 25th anniversary of bringing Mauritians together in Toronto.
About 400 people attended the March 16 celebration, which included Mauritian food, a Sega contest, raffle, door prizes and a grand prize of a trip from Europe to Mauritius, courtesy of Air Mauritius, Toronto. The food buffet featured gateaux piments, pain frire et chatini, dholl puri, rougaille, potato curry, vegetable achard, samoussas and bryani.
The evening that demonstrated once again how Mauritians of all backgrounds can work and have fun together – l’unité dans la diversité – according to the party’s organizers.
For more information about Club M : http://www.clubmtoronto.com.
Work begins on renewal of US-Africa trade law
AGOA (the African Growth and Opportunity Act), which has helped pump new life into the Mauritius textile sector, is due to expire in two years. But the push is on in Washington and in Africa to secure an early renewal of the trade law that opened the United States to duty free sale of more than 6,000 products from qualifying countries in Africa.
And it seems that worries in the United States about expansion of Chinese influence in Africa might help push the process along.
Some U.S. lawmakers believe that early renewal of AGOA should be part of a larger U.S. strategy to counter the growing economic clout of Chinese investment in Africa.
“America is losing ground and ceding economic opportunities in Africa to competitors, ” Senator Chris Coons, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, said in a recent report from his office.
“China, which has made dramatic inroads across the continent in recent years, may undermine or even counter value-driven U.S. goals in the region, and should serve as a wake-up call for enhanced American trade and investment, ” the Delaware Democrat said in calling for an early renewal of AGOA.
The senator also suggested that the trade law be revamped to encourage countries to take more advantage of the duty-free benefits of AGOA. Petroleum from African producers in Nigeria and Angola now account for 88 percent of the value of U.S. imports under AGOA, even though more than 6,000 products receive duty-free treatment when exported to America.
Many African countries lack the resources to expand their exports into these other areas, while other nations aren’t aware that so many other export opportunities exist, he said.
Meanwhile, work has begun in Washington to develop the framework for a 10-year extension of AGOA.U.S. policymakers are urging African leaders to articulate their priorities for the renewal, and offer their ideas for making the trade law more effective in fostering trade between Africa and the United States. The current law expires in September 2015.
African ambassadors have started to brainstorm in Washington, and discussions have also begun in Mauritius, where Arvin Boolell, Minister of Foreign Affairs, held a meeting on the topic in December.
Boolell indicated that a main concern of Mauritius was to establish predictability in trade relations with the United States, and an early renewal of AGOA would avoid disruptions in trade. A frenzied last-minute renewal of the Third Country Fabric provision last July caused many problems for the Mauritian textile industry. The minister also suggested that a bilateral trade agreement between the two countries should be considered.
Also topping the list of priorities for an AGOA renewal would be expanding products now offered duty-free benefits for export to the United States. Generally, however, it was the feeling at the meeting that the law was working well and didn’t need major changes.
In fact, given the serious budget problems in the United States, it would be unwise to seek ambitious expansions of AGOA.
“Most of the improvements currently being discussed carry big budget price tags, but in the current budget crisis, anything that causes a big budget hit is dead on arrival,” said Paul Ryberg, an American attorney who represents the Mauritian government in Washington.
“There is serious risk that those who wish to improve AGOA may end up killing it unintentionally,” he added. “We should focus on what is doable, starting with renewing the current terms through 2025. Anything more than that is gravy, but we cannot afford to lose what already works in pursuit of something better that may not be realistic.”
These issues will be discussed further at the annual AGOA Forum, at which African leaders will meet with U.S. policymakers and representatives of non-government organizations. The meeting will be held in Ethiopia from April 25-28.
International Monetary Fund sets up training office in Port Louis
The IMF is set to open a regional center in Mauritius that will provide specialized training to government officials from sub-Saharan Africa.
The African Training Institute will be housed in CyberCity and will be the latest addition to a network of similar IMF centers around the world. Courses and seminars will be formulated for officials from African central banks, ministries of finance and other government departments. The curriculum will cover macroeconomic management from fiscal, monetary and exchange rate policies to managing debt and revenue from natural resources, such as oil and diamonds. The Institute also will provide the opportunity to bring together more officials from different countries to share their experiences and gain new skills by interacting with experts.
The training will complement activities of the IMF’s Regional Technical Assistance Center, also located in Mauritius.
The government of Mauritius responded to the IMF’s open bid to host a regional training center and is providing a substantial cash contribution in addition to donating the training facilities, according to an IMF statement. The agreement was signed at a ceremony in Mauritius in December attended by Mauritian authorities and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.
“I am confident that hosting these two very important centers will support Mauritius’overarching strategy to become a knowledge hub for sub-Saharan Africa, while helping to address urgent needs in Africa,” Lagarde said.
The Institute will be funded by a multidonor trust fund, with contributors providing oversight through a steering committee. Australia and China have already pledged financial support.
Does Mauritius sit on a lost continent ?
Mauritius is world renown for its beautiful beaches. But it is what lurks below these sandy shores that is now of global interest.
A team of international scientists believes that the island sits on top of an ancient lost continent that they call Mauritia.
Writing in the Feb. 24 issue of the journal Nature Geoscience, the experts say they have found evidence that an ancient microcontinent sits beneath Mauritius and Reunion. They believe fragments of buried land became a separate landmass 60 million years ago when Madagascar and India drifted apart after the breakup of the supercontinent Rodinia.
As evidence, the scientists say that lava sand grains examined from Mauritius beaches contain semi-precious zircon aged between 660 million and 1,970 million years. They say that zircon formed beneath Mauritius, and was brought to the surface by plume-related lavas.
Fragments of Mauritia can be found about 10 kilometers beneath Mauritius, and would have existed between Precambrian Era and the time of the dinosaurs.
The scientists from Oslo University, the University of Liverpool and the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa used several techniques in their study including gravity mapping, rock analysis and plate movement reconstruction.
American potatoes land in Mauritius
The potatoes that you add to your curry might soon have origins in the United States.
A group of growers from the USA recently came to Mauritius and met with government officials and local importers and growers to promote the use of U.S. potato seed stock.
They visited a field where local growers had planted a trial of CalWhite potatoes, a variety that has been developed in the United States. CalWhite is a large, basic white potato that has good yields for farmers, is tasty for consumers and grows well in hot climates.
“The local industry is really impressed with the CalWhite variety,” said Sarah Reece, international marketing manager of the U.S. Potato Board, which organized the trip to Mauritius. “The local industry in Mauritius is really impressed with the Cal White variety. Both farmers as well as consumers really like it because of its many attributes.”
She said the visit helped build interest in the U.S. seed stock, and Mauritian importers are interested in buying up to 150 metric tons of Cal White for planting in April.
Source: Le Mauricien – http://www.lemauricien.com/article/national-day-celebrated-washington-and-toronto