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United States and Tunisia Re-Launch Bilateral Trade and Investment Talks in Support of Tunisia’s Democratic Transition

October 05, 2011

Tunis, Tunisia – Last week, Assistant United States Trade Representative for Europe and the Middle East L. Daniel Mullaney and Assistant United States Trade Representative for Services and Investment Christine Bliss led a U.S. delegation in talks with the Government of Tunisia. The talks were focused on re-launching discussions under the 2002 bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). The U.S. delegation, which included officials from USTR and the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, also held several meetings with representatives of the Tunisian business community and private sector.

“The United States strongly supports Tunisia’s transition to democracy and to an open economic system governed by the rule of law,” said Mullaney. “We believe that enhancing U.S. trade and investment integration with Tunisia to increase economic growth and jobs is an important part of the support we can give to this process. We are pleased to be re-launching the TIFA and will propose holding a full bilateral TIFA Council meeting in the coming months.”

In 2010, the United States was Tunisia’s fifth-largest trading partner. Between 2009 and 2010, two way trade (exports plus imports) grew 18 percent and followed an upward curve for the entire previous decade. Two-way trade between the United States and Tunisia was valued at $976 million during 2010, representing the United States’ 96th largest goods trading relationship. U.S. exports to Tunisia in 2010 were $571 million. U.S. imports from Tunisia in 2010 were $406 million. Leading U.S. exports to Tunisia include miscellaneous grain seed and fruit, cereals, machinery, fats and oils. Tunisia predominantly exports mineral fuel, fats and oils, woven apparel, electrical machinery and precious stones. U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in Tunisia was $220 million in 2009, which is latest available data.

While in Tunis last week, the U.S. delegation met with a wide range of both private sector representatives and government officials in order to gain a broad perspective on the economic opportunities and challenges involved in the nation’s historic transformation. These meetings highlighted the eagerness of the Tunisian people and its government officials to engage meaningfully in a process that will result in a open, transparent, and competitive economy that will help create jobs and greater economic activity in Tunisia and the entire North African region. In particular, Tunisia hopes to use its highly educated, skilled, and youthful population to become a regional economic hub.

At the conclusion of their visit, the U.S. and Tunisian delegations established working groups to carry forward the work of the newly re-launched TIFA. These groups will develop work plans across a range of areas intended to support bilateral trade and investment and regional economic integration. The work plans will include, for instance, trade facilitation; trade and investment promotion (especially with respect to small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)); reduction of barriers to investment in key service sectors such as information and communications technology (ICT) services, financial services, and clean energy services; strengthening the protection of intellectual property rights; and promoting the rule of law through greater transparency, including public participation in rule-making; and anti-corruption efforts. These working groups will report on their progress at the first newly launched TIFA Council meeting.