On 29-31 March 1995, the Mauritius
Government convened a meeting to discuss the enhancement of
economic co-operation among the countries of the Indian Ocean Rim.
Representatives of governments, academia and businesses from
Australia, India, Kenya, Mauritius, Oman, Singapore and South
Africa - known as the "Core Group States" or the M-7 - attended the
meeting. In a joint statement, the participants declared that they
had agreed on "principles of open regionalism and inclusivity of
membership, with the objectives of trade liberalization and
promoting trade co-operation. Activities would focus on trade
facilitation, investment promotion and economic
A tripartite Working Group
(Government, Academic and Private Sectors) met in Mauritius on
15-17 August 1995. The Working Group decided to create a "Second
Track" process, complementary to an Inter-Governmental Movement. A
later meeting in September 1996 in Mauritius finalised a Charter
for the creation of IORA, and expanded the membership to include
Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Tanzania, Madagascar and
IORA was formally launched at the
first Ministerial Meeting in Mauritius on 6-7 March 1997. This
meeting adopted the IORA Charter, and determined the administrative
and procedural framework within which the organisation would
The Second Biennial Council of
Ministers Meeting was held in Maputo, Mozambique in March 1999.
This meeting was critical for the future of IORA as Ministers
agreed to a realistic, outcome-focused Trade and Investment Agenda,
based on Trade Facilitation, Trade Liberalisation, and Economic and
Technical Co-operation. It was agreed to establish a Working Group
on Trade and Investment (WGTI). The Ministers also decided to
invite Bangladesh, Iran, Seychelles, Thailand and the United Arab
Emirates to join the Association, and to invite Egypt and Japan to
participate as Dialogue Partners.
An extraordinary meeting of the
IORA Ministerial Council took place in Muscat, Oman, in January
2000, designed to formally welcome the new members and Dialogue
Partners into IORA. This was also the first time that the WGTI met.
At this meeting, the Ministers adopted a Trade and Investment Plan
of Action, which included an agreement to compile a Compendium on
Customs Regimes, Quarantine and Food Inspection and Investment
Regimes. Another outcome of this meeting was that China and the
United Kingdom formally acquired Dialogue Partner status.
The Third Ministerial Meeting of
the IORA was held in Muscat, Oman, on 7 and 8 April 2001. This
Council of Ministers (COM) meeting was immediately preceded by
meetings of the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO), the Indian
Ocean Rim Academic Group (IORAG), the Indian Ocean Rim Business
Forum (IORBF) and the Working Group on Trade and Investment (WGTI).
At this meeting France was admitted as a Dialogue
In recent years, IORA has gained
tremendous momentum. The breadth and depth of regional co-operation
has been continually expanded. The Association also continues to
grow in terms of membership. In November 2012, Comoros became the
20th IORA Member State, and the United States of
America became the organisation's sixth Dialogue Partner.