Mauritania's trade regime has been reformed over the past years, with the objective of eliminating barriers to international trade and enhancing the competitiveness of Mauritania's exports. Customs procedures have been simplified and the majority of customs duties rationalized, while most non-tariff measures have been abolished.
The foreign exchange system has been liberalized, and foreign currencies can be obtained through commercial banks and exchange offices upon presentation of required documents: invoices for importers and an airplane ticket with a valid passport for travelers. The Central Bank fixes the exchange rate for the ouguiya through a basket of currencies of its principal trading partners. Interest rates, which are high relative to economic activity, have discouraged private investment. The liberalization of lending and deposit rates at commercial banks, however, has boosted investment.
The Central Bank of Mauritania offers incentives to encourage fish exporters to bring back their assets in foreign currency and exchange them for ouguiya in commercial banks or exchange offices. This policy has increased the availability of foreign currencies in the market. For example, local companies may now pay foreign suppliers either in cash or by direct transfer through a commercial bank, without Central Bank involvement. This new policy has facilitated foreign payments.
The Mauritanian Market is open to international exporters. It was liberalized in October 1991. The best strategy to enter the market is to establish a relationship with a well-connected local partner who knows the market and can help investors make the necessary contacts. This partner will help investors to better understand the culture and business environment.
Before deciding on doing any kind of business, the foreign investor should first visit Mauritania and discuss their business plan with a local partner. Investors should also meet with government officials responsible for the sector that he or she is interested in to discuss the administrative procedures required to become legally established.
Agents and distributors are commonly used and Mauritanians frequently express interest in representing foreign companies in all sectors. Western companies and trademarks are represented in the country.