Trade & Investment Facilitation

The Indian Ocean region has historically played a crucial role in global trade and commerce, serving as a vital maritime gateway for centuries. Renowned for its strategic location, the region has been a hub for diverse cultures, fostering extensive economic interactions. Countries surrounding the Indian Ocean have engaged in trade for centuries, facilitating the exchange of goods, ideas, and technologies. 

Fuelled by abundant resources, emerging markets, and crucial sea routes, trade and investment in the region have witnessed remarkable growth. This growth is a testament to the enduring importance of the region as a global economic player. 

Recognising the immense potential of the Indian Ocean, IORA is instrumental in fostering coordination as governments and businesses increasingly realise the untapped opportunities the region presents. IORA's efforts contribute to the rise of regional collaborations and economic partnerships, creating an environment conducive to cross-border investments and the formulation of impactful trade agreements. The organisation plays a pivotal role in fostering coherence and synergy among member states, enabling them to harness the economic opportunities presented by the Indian Ocean region in a unified manner. 

IORA’s vision is to promote sustainable economic development through facilitation of trade and investment in the Indian Ocean Rim region. By fostering collaboration, addressing key challenges, and promoting knowledge sharing, IORA remains instrumental in unlocking the immense economic potential of the Indian Ocean Rim region. The organisation's dedication to creating a conducive environment for trade and investment paves the way for a brighter economic future for all member states. 

Focus Areas 

Working Group on Trade and Investment (WGTI) 
Driving Economic Growth in the Indian Ocean Rim 

Established in 1999, the Working Group on Trade and Investment (WGTI) serves as the cornerstone of IORA's economic development initiatives. Its primary mission is to enhance trade and investment policies within the region, fostering sustainable economic growth through inclusive public-private partnerships. The WGTI's multifaceted approach focuses on: 

  • Boosting intra-IORA trade: The group actively works to increase the flow of goods, services, and investments between member states, unlocking the region's full economic potential. 
  • Facilitating business movement: By streamlining processes and regulations, WGTI aims to make it easier for businesses to operate across borders, fostering a more dynamic and interconnected regional economy. 
  • Improving connectivity: Recognising the importance of infrastructure development, WGTI advocates for enhanced physical and digital connectivity within the Indian Ocean Rim, facilitating smoother trade flows and collaboration. 
  • Enhancing ease of doing business: WGTI plays a crucial role in improving the business environment for IORA member states, contributing to their attractiveness for foreign investment and overall economic competitiveness. 
  • Strengthening regional cooperation: The group actively promotes collaboration among member states, particularly in supporting Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which are vital drivers of regional economic growth and job creation. 

Towards this end, the objectives of the WGTI are: 

  • To study and recommend measures to be endorsed by the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) and Council of Ministers (COM) that address impediments to trade in goods, services, and investment. This ensures that IORA's trade and investment objectives are effectively promoted, and economic and technical cooperation amongst member states is enhanced. 
  • To deepen engagement with the business community (including through closer collaboration with the Indian Ocean Rim Business Forum (IORBF) and business-to-government interactions). This fosters a collaborative environment where businesses can actively contribute to shaping the region's economic landscape. 
  • To implement the IORA Action Plan and WGTI Work Plan. These comprehensive plans provide a clear roadmap for IORA's trade and investment initiatives, ensuring focused and strategic action towards achieving its vision. 
  • To create a common platform for dialogue and exchange of information, including on opportunities, challenges, and best practices. This facilitates knowledge sharing and enables member states to learn from each other's experiences, leading to more informed decision-making and effective policy implementation. 
  • To encourage Member States and Dialogue Partners to offer training and capacity building programmes to meet the needs of and improve livelihoods in Member States. By equipping individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge, IORA contributes to empowering local communities and fostering inclusive economic growth across the region. 
  • To propose over the medium to long term an appropriate framework to unlock the trade and investment potential of IORA. This involves developing long-term strategies that address systemic challenges and pave the way for sustainable economic development throughout the Indian Ocean Rim. 

To achieve these objectives, WGTI maintains a comprehensive work plan outlining specific initiatives undertaken by member states. These initiatives encompass a wide range of activities, including: 

  • Supporting the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement: WGTI works to ensure that member states can maximise the benefits of this agreement, which aims to simplify and expedite trade procedures. 
  • Identifying and reducing non-tariff barriers (NTBs): The group actively identifies and addresses non-tariff obstacles that hinder trade, such as technical regulations and bureaucratic procedures. 
  • Sharing knowledge and best practices: By fostering knowledge exchange among member states, WGTI enables them to learn from each other's experiences and implement effective strategies to improve their business environments. 
  • Promoting regional supply chains: WGTI encourages the development of integrated regional supply chains, which can enhance efficiency, competitiveness, and resilience within the Indian Ocean Rim. 
  • Facilitating government, business, and academic engagement: The group recognises the importance of multi-stakeholder collaboration and actively promotes dialogue and cooperation between governments, businesses, and academic institutions to drive economic development. 

With the current Chair (TBC), WGTI continues to play a pivotal role in shaping the economic landscape of the Indian Ocean Rim. The group's two virtual meetings held in May and September 2023 demonstrate its ongoing commitment to fostering regional economic integration and prosperity. 

Past Events
Creation of an IORA Centre of Excellence for Dispute Resolution – February 2024
India – IORA Cruise Tourism Project – 2024
The adoption of an IORA MOU on Promoting Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which are vital to boost economic growth and access to technology, markets and capital
The Experts’ Meeting on Trade and Investment Facilitation in the Indian Ocean Region held on 30-31 January 2020 in Mauritius. ...
The successful Modernising Trade in the Indian Ocean Rim conference, held on 17-18 June 2019 in Durban, South Africa. ...
IORA Business Conclave 2024
Register for the IORA Business Conclave, 28- 29 May 2024, in Sri Lanka. Business delegations from ...
Amanda Aspden