Washington, D.C. - The United States-Tunisia Trade and Investment Council held its sixth session on March 22, 2016, in Washington, D.C., to continue its examination of ways to increase trade and investment between the two economies. Led by Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Eurasia and the Middle East Mark Mowrey and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General for Asia and the Americas Ambassador Mokhtar Chaouachi, the Council explored a range of potential cooperative activities to expand the already significant two-way trade between the United States and Tunisia, which amounted to more than $1 billion last year.
The Council recalled and reaffirmed the interest of both sides in pursuing detailed discussions, begun at the last Council meeting in June 2014, of potential trade and investment commitments in multiple areas that could usefully build a foundation for broader and deeper future integration. The Council intends to continue this work in upcoming formal meetings and through informal working level contacts among experts between the formal meetings.
The Council, as in past sessions, focused on topics that show the greatest promise in the short to medium terms for broadening opportunities for Tunisian and American businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The U.S. and Tunisian delegations reviewed numerous practical ways, including through enhanced Tunisian use of the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program and pursuit of specialized branding campaigns, by which Tunisian exporters could improve their competitiveness in U.S. markets. The delegations noted with satisfaction that Tunisia is already a leading supplier of olive oil and dates to the U.S. market under GSP. The delegations also exchanged ideas on possibly extending existing programs or designing new ones to help Tunisia better attract foreign investors and facilitate the participation of female entrepreneurs in U.S.-Tunisian trade. The U.S. delegation expressed its continued appreciation that the Tunisian Ministry of Trade and Handicrafts has approved to date all licenses sought by U.S. franchises for operations in Tunisia.
The Council also discussed potential cooperation in several policy areas important to the growth of U.S.-Tunisia trade and investment ties. The Tunisian delegation indicated Tunisia’s intent to ratify the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement by the end of the year and to become an observer to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement. The Tunisian delegation also described the Tunisian government’s plans for reforming the investment code to facilitate greater foreign investment in the economy. Both delegations agreed to strengthen their dialogue with respect to the development of Tunisia’s international investment framework and particularly of Tunisia’s Intellectual Property Rights protection regime, which the U.S. delegation noted is key to many U.S. companies looking to invest abroad.
The Council affirmed its determination to maintain over the coming months a robust exchange between officials in these and other issue areas and to reconvene in 2017 in Tunis to take stock of progress.