Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

13 September 2002

Mauritania: September 2002

The Trade Policy Review Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) concluded its first review of Mauritania on 11 and 13 of September 2002. The text of the Chairperson's concluding remarks is attached as a summary of the salient points which emerged during the discussion.

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Members commend the ambitious reforms undertaken

The review enables the TPRB to conduct a collective examination of the full range of trade policies and practices of each WTO member countries at regular periodic intervals to monitor significant trends and developments which may have an impact on the global trading system.

The review is based on two reports which are prepared respectively by the WTO Secretariat and the government under review and which cover all aspects of the country’s trade policies, including its domestic laws and regulations, the institutional framework, bilateral, regional and other preferential agreements, the wider economic needs and the external environment. A record of the discussion and the Chairperson’s summing-up together with these two reports will be published in due course at the complete trade policy review of Mauritania and will be available from the WTO Secretariat, Centre William Rappard, 154 rue de Lausanne, 1211 Geneva 21.

Since December 1989, the following reports have been completed: Argentina (1992 and 1999), Australia (1989, 1994 and 1998), Austria (1992), Bahrain (2000) Bangladesh (1992 and 2000), Benin (1997), Bolivia (1993 and 1999), Botswana (1998), Brazil (1992, 1996 and 2000), Brunei Darussalam (2001), Burkina Faso (1998), Cameroon (1995 and 2001), Canada (1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2000), Chile (1991 and 1997), Colombia (1990 and 1996), Costa Rica (1995 and 2001), Côte d’Ivoire (1995), Cyprus (1997), the Czech Republic (1996 and 2001), the Dominican Republic (1996), Egypt (1992 and 1999), El Salvador (1996), the European Communities (1991, 1993, 1995, 1997 and 2000), Fiji (1997), Finland (1992), Gabon (2001), Ghana (1992 and 2001), Guatemala (2002), Guinea (1999), Hong Kong (1990, 1994 and 1998), Hungary (1991 and 1998), Iceland (1994 and 2000), India (1993 and 1998), Indonesia (1991, 1994 and 1998), Israel (1994 and 1999), Jamaica (1998), Japan (1990, 1992, 1995,1998 and 2000), Kenya (1993 and 2000), Korea, Rep. of (1992, 1996 and 2000), Lesotho (1998), Macao (1994 and 2001), Madagascar (2001), Malawi (2002), Malaysia (1993, 1997 and 2001), Mali (1998), Mauritania (2002), Mauritius (1995 and 2001), Mexico (1993, 1997 and 2002), Morocco (1989 and 1996), Mozambique (2001), New Zealand (1990 and 1996), Namibia (1998), Nicaragua (1999), Nigeria (1991 and 1998), Norway (1991, 1996 and 2000), OECS (2001), Pakistan (1995 and 2002), Papua New Guinea (1999), Paraguay (1997), Peru (1994 and 2000), the Philippines (1993 and 1999), Poland (1993 and 2000), Romania (1992 and 1999), Senegal (1994), Singapore (1992, 1996 and 2000), Slovak Republic (1995 and 2001), the Solomon Islands (1998), South Africa (1993 and 1998), Sri Lanka (1995), Swaziland (1998), Sweden (1990 and 1994), Switzerland (1991, 1996 and 2000 (jointly with Liechtenstein)), Tanzania (2000), Thailand (1991, 1995 and 1999), Togo (1999), Trinidad and Tobago (1998), Tunisia (1994), Turkey (1994 and 1998), the United States (1989, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1999 and 2001), Uganda (1995 and 2001), Uruguay (1992 and 1998), Venezuela (1996), Zambia (1996) and Zimbabwe (1994).


This first Trade Policy Review of Mauritania has been very successful, having greatly enhanced our understanding of Mauritania’s trade policies and practices, as well as of the country’s development challenges. Our dialogue has been fruitful, in great part due to the open and active participation of the Mauritania delegation headed by Minister Ould Abdel Kader, whose presence in this meeting was a testimony of the importance that Mauritania attaches to the multilateral trading system.

Members commended Mauritania for the ambitious structural reforms undertaken since the early 1990s, which have transformed the country significantly, both in economic and political terms. These reforms are aimed at reducing poverty and improving the population’s standard of living, which clearly represent pressing and vital objectives for a least developed country. Mauritania considers international trade to be an essential tool in achieving those aims, and has made trade liberalization, much of it autonomous, a key element of its reform programme. This has entailed the revision of numerous trade-related laws and regulations in order to modernize and bring them into line with multilateral rules. Mauritania was encouraged to continue its liberalization efforts, and to further enhance the transparency and predictability of its trade regime.

Mauritania’s institutional constraints were noted, as were the problems that these impose on its fuller participation in the multilateral system, including the timely submission of notifications to the WTO. Mauritania is among the first three pilot countries selected for the implementation of the Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Technical Assistance to least developed countries. In this regard, Mauritania indicated that one of its priorities is to attain a better understanding of WTO Agreements, including notifications and other multilateral commitments and issues. Another priority is capacity-building for negotiations in light of the Doha Development Agenda. Members concurred with Mauritania that the time had come to translate the studies undertaken in the context of the Integrated Framework into practical action.

On specific trade measures, several Members drew attention to various issues concerning Mauritania’s tariff regime, including the relatively high tariffs applied to certain products, mainly textiles and clothing, footwear, headwear, and some motor vehicles. They also pointed out the important gap between applied and bound tariff rates, which undermines predictability, and suggested that this gap be reduced in the context of the current market access negotiations. Members also encouraged Mauritania to extend its tariff bindings to the non-agricultural sector and to transpose all bindings into the Harmonized System nomenclature.

Members appreciated the amendments to the customs valuation legislation, the harmonization of the VAT rates, the elimination of fiscal exemptions for state enterprises, the new investment code, as well as the rationalization and reduction of MFN duties and taxes. They also valued the limited number of non-tariff barriers. However, concerns were expressed about the application of labelling requirements, and delegations stressed that such requirements should not discriminate between domestic and foreign producers. It was noted that Mauritania receives non-reciprocal preferential access to the markets of key trading partners.

On sectoral policies, Members noted that services and agriculture were the most important sectors in terms of their contribution to GDP, but that manufacturing remained embryonic. Mauritania was commended for having liberalized its agricultural sector. As the fisheries and mining sectors account for almost all merchandise exports, Members urged Mauritania to continue its efforts to address its supply-side constraints, and to diversify its production and export base.

Members praised Mauritania for its efforts in privatizing and removing market access barriers in services sectors such as telecommunications, banking, and air transport. Several Members encouraged Mauritania to further open services activities to private investment, bearing in mind Mauritania’s positive experience with liberalization. Members urged Mauritania to submit a comprehensive services offer in the ongoing GATS negotiations.

Members also sought further clarification on a number of other specific areas, including:

  • Mauritania’s poverty reduction programme;
  • privatization and state trading;
  • the foreign direct investment regime;
  • preferential trade arrangements;
  • contingency measures; and
  • protection of intellectual property rights.

The delegation of Mauritania provided written and oral replies to questions posed during the Review. The replies provided have made a major contribution to this meeting, and were clearly appreciated by all Members.

This brings us to the conclusion of our Review of Mauritania. As we had hoped, through this Review we have gained a first-hand appreciation of Mauritania’s achievements, particularly since the beginning of the 1990s, and of the significant challenges that as a least developed country it still faces. Mauritania reiterated the importance it attaches to trade liberalization as a development instrument, and to its fuller participation in the WTO. Members were conscious that Mauritania’s efforts need to be buttressed externally, and gave assurances of help through bilateral and multilateral technical assistance. I sincerely trust that they will follow through on this with concrete actions. I congratulate you all for the positive Review of Mauritania and thank you for your participation.