WASHINGTON, D.C. - The United States-Tunisia Trade and Investment Council met on May 16, 2019 in Washington, D.C., under the auspices of the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). This was the eighth session of the Council held since the TIFA was signed in 2002. Daniel Mullaney, the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Europe and the Middle East, led the U.S. delegation, which included representatives from the Department of State, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Agriculture, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Ambassador Khaled Khiari, Director General for the Americas, Asia and Oceania in the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led the Tunisian delegation, which consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Commerce; the Ministry of Development, Investment and International Cooperation; the Ministry of Agriculture; and the National Institute of Standardization and Industrial Property.
The U.S. and Tunisian delegations discussed a range of issues and cooperative activities, with a view to exploring ways to expand bilateral trade and investment and create jobs, to the mutual benefit of both countries. Two-way trade in goods reached $1.2 billion in 2018 – more than three times the level in 2000. Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Mullaney and Ambassador Khiari welcomed recent progress in technical discussions between agricultural experts, which resulted in the finalization of health certificates allowing U.S. egg, poultry and beef products to be shipped to Tunisia. The two delegations discussed additional engagement on food and agriculture issues, including with respect to grain specifications, and Tunisia’s food safety and biosecurity laws, as well as ongoing and possible future technical assistance to Tunisia in the agriculture area. They also noted Tunisia’s recent successes in entering several U.S. markets, including those for dates, olive oil and handicrafts.
Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Mullaney emphasized that the United States looks forward to further progress in the area of customs and trade facilitation, focusing on Tunisia’s continued implementation of provisions of the World Trade Organization‘s Trade Facilitation Agreement and other improvements in Tunisian customs procedures. The two delegations also discussed at length issues related to the protection of intellectual property, including geographical indications, patents and regulatory data protection for pharmaceutical products.
Ambassador Khiari acknowledged and welcomed the positive impact on Tunisia’s economic development of sustained U.S. Government engagement with Tunisia since the 2010-11 revolution, including through Tunisian participation in the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program and Tunisian receipt of U.S. technical assistance through a number of programs. Technical assistance has included support provided by the Commerce Department’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP), which has focused on multiple areas, including franchising, public procurement, technology transfer and reform of Tunisia‘s foreign investment framework, and most recently by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which is in the process of developing its first Compact for Tunisia.
Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Mullaney also congratulated the Tunisian government on the considerable progress it has made on its economic reform program since the last Council meeting in 2017 – including in particular steps the Tunisian side has taken to implement the 2017 investment law -- which should make Tunisia an even more attractive trading partner for U.S. businesses. Ambassador Khiari highlighted the recognition Tunisia has received in the most recent World Bank Doing Business Report, which confirmed that the country had advanced significantly in the report’s country ranking of best places to do business.
The two delegations agreed to follow up discussions in the Council meeting with more focused consultations among experts in the various issue areas. The next meeting of the Council is envisioned for 2020 in Tunis.