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Breakthrough agreement in sight for trade in services

30 May 2018

Five Commonwealth countries in Africa and the Indian Ocean are putting final touches on an agreement that will make it easier for professionals to move and work across their borders.

Experts are gathering this week in Port-Louis, Mauritius on 28 - 31 May to conclude negotiations on the Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) of Professional Accountants and Auditors in Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zambia.

The deal will enable accounting qualifications to be recognised across these five countries, which are part of the Accelerated Programme for Economic Integration (APEI) aimed at removing trade barriers between members.

“This MRA is the first of its kind negotiated in Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean,” said Kirk Haywood, Commonwealth Trade Adviser.  “It is one of the most facilitative agreements of this type to be found anywhere across the globe.”

“Such agreements are the missing link for accountants, engineers, lawyers and other professionals to be able to take advantage of trade agreements, by removing the ‘last mile’ barriers preventing them from being able to offer their services. They are particularly important for sole practitioner and small firms who lack the resources to easily penetrate new markets.”

The Commonwealth has been providing technical and financial support to develop and negotiate the MRA as a way to advance trade in services.

Better mobility of auditors and accountants is also expected to enhance business environments and raise professional standards in the sector.

Opening the event in Mauritius, the APEI Chair’s representative Kondwani Jawati, Legislative Counsel from Ministry of Justice & Constitutional Affairs of Malawi was confident that this third round of negotiations will deliver a final agreed MRA text.

Seela Devi Jeelall, Principal Trade Policy Analyst at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of host country Mauritius added that the successful signature and application of the agreement would help replicate the model in other sectors.

The five countries meeting this week will be seeking domestic clearances to sign the agreement later this year.