Seychelles became a member of the SADC in September 1997, however due to human and financial constraints, the Government decided to withdraw its membership from this regional economic community (REC) in 2004. In 2006, the Government reinitiated the process of joining SADC and by August 2008 Seychelles was readmitted.
Following a mission led by the Executive Secretary Dr. Salamao in December 2010, the Government of Seychelles found that it would be beneficial to intensify efforts to join the SADC Free Trade Area (FTA) and eventually become a signatory to the Trade Protocol.
The Council of Ministers of Trade which met in July 2014 in Gaborone, approved Seychelles accession to the FTA. This was was later formalised by the SADC Summit held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe in August 2014.
Seychelles ratified the SADC Protocol on Trade, on the 1st of April 2015 and formally acceded to the FTA in May 2015, when it submited both its instrument of accession and intrument of implementation.
2. Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)
Seychelles became a member of the COMESA in June 1993 when it was still the Preferential Trade Area (PTA) for Eastern and Southern Africa. COMESA began its operation in 1994 and it currently has 19 member states.
In November 2007, The Council of Ministers agreed to allow Seychelles to join the FTA, and the subsequent COMESA FTA regulations were published in Seychelles on 25th May 2009 with effect from 11th May 2009.
3. Indian Ocean Commission (IOC)
The Indian Ocean Commission is an intergovernmental organisation that joins Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion and Seychelles together to encourage cooperation. It was started in 1984 under the General Victoria Agreement. The original aim of IOC was to encourage trade and tourism.
Seychelles currently gives preferential rates to imports of goods originating from member states of the IOC in the form of a 5% reduction on the trade tax rates. This however applies on certain selected products.
4. Tripartite FTA
The First Tripartite Summit, held on 22 October 2008 in Kampala, Uganda, approved the expeditious establishment of a Free Trade Area (FTA), encompassing the Member/ Partner States of the three Regional Economic Communities (RECs).
It is envisaged that the twenty-six (26) countries will engage in negotiations for the establishment of a Tripartite FTA, recognising that substantial progress on trade liberalisation has been achieved within their three RECs. The establishment of the Tripartite FTA will build upon and consolidate the RECs acquis.
The negotiations shall be in two phases as follows:
i) The first phase will cover negotiations on the following areas: tariff liberalisation, rules of origin, dispute resolution, customs procedures and simplification of customs documentation, transit procedures, non-tariff barriers, trade remedies, technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures.
ii) Movement of business persons will be dealt with during the first phase of negotiations as a parallel and separate track.
iii) The second phase will cover negotiations on the following areas: trade in services, intellectual property rights, competition policy, and trade development and competitiveness.
The Tripartite process is a means of removing administrative burden and other technical difficulties associated with multiple membership.
5. Other Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs)
Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)
Seychelles is currently negotiating a comprehensive EPA with the EC so as to achieve a trade agreement between the two counterparts which are compatible to international trade rules.
Seychelles signed the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) in 2000 together with 77 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries with the member states of the EU. The Agreement provided non-reciprocal preferential market access to the EC for goods originating from these countries.
Given that the EPA negotiations were taking longer than expected to conclude, Seychelles signed an interim agreement with the EC in 2008 to prevent trade disruption until the finalising of the comprehensive EPA. Seychelles exports its products to the EC at duty free quota free and started implementing reciprocal treatment to imports from EC in January 2013.
6. The World Trade Organization
Seychelles applied for accession to the WTO in 1995; however due to human resource and capacity constraints, this was put on hold from 1997. The process was re-initiated in 2008 with the resubmission of its Memorandum of Foreign Trade Regime (MOFTR) in 2009 which provided an overview of how trade policy in Seychelles is being administered.
As part of the negotiating process, Seychelles concluded bilateral agreements with a number of WTO members, namely; Oman, Mauritius, Canada, South Africa, Switzerland, European Union, Thailand Japan and the United States.
At the National Level, a number of steering committees was established to ensure that the decision making process is as inclusive as possible. Technical recommendations stem from the four sub-committees and feed into the National Working Group.
Seychelles also made significant progress in the development of the MOFTR (submitted in 2009), with the same having now evolved into a Draft Working Party report which was tabled at the Working Party meeting for Seychelles accession to the WTO, held in October 2014.Seychelles accession package was adopted by the General Council in December 2014.
On Tuesday the 24th of March 2015, the National Assembly of the Republic of Seychelles by a historic vote, unanimously enacted into law the Protocol on the accession of Seychelles to the World Trade Organisation (WTO)
Following the Act of Parliament, his Excellency, President James Michel signed the Instrument of Acceptance of the Protocol of Accession of the Republic of Seychelles at a plenary meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers