Brussels, 23 March 2005
European Commissioner for Trade Peter Mandelson travels to Tunisia today for a two day visit to Tunisia and Morocco. The visit will emphasise the preferential trading partnership between the EU and the Maghreb countries. The visit comes at an important time for the EU-Maghreb relationship, with both sides seeking to deepen cooperation across the Euro-Mediterranean area. The EU is the largest trading partner for both Tunisia and Morocco. Commissioner Mandelson will be listening to their views on a range of trade issues.
Commissioner Mandelson will meet with both Prime Minister Driss Jettou of Morocco and Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi of Tunisia. He will also meet with Tunisian Minister of Trade Mondher Zenaidi, Tunisian Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Saïda Chtioui; Moroccan Minister for Foreign Affairs Mohamed Benaissa, Moroccan Minister for External Trade Mustapha Mechahouri and Moroccan Minister for Trade and Industry Salahheddine Mezouar.
Commissioner Mandelson said: “I want to use this visit to reinforce the EU’s commitment to a genuine privileged partnership with the Maghreb as part of our strong traditional links to the wider Euro-Mediterranean region. The creation of a truly integrated Euro-Mediterranean regional market by 2010 remains our goal. I will be discussing with my counterparts what steps still need to be taken to make this a reality. A major step forward will be the liberalisation of services and investment, for which I intend to ask the European Council for a negotiating mandate.”
During this visit Commissioner Mandelson will reinforce the European Union’s commitment to developing a system of pan Euro-Mediterranean cumulation that will allow goods produced with inputs from more than one Mediterranean country to gain duty free access to the EU market. The introduction of this system will provide a major boost to regional economic cooperation.
It is also part of the EU’s proactive policy of supporting Mediterranean partners like Tunisia and Morocco in adjusting to the elimination of textile quotas on the first of January this year. Commissioner Mandelson said: “I know that there are concerns in Tunisia and Morocco about the textiles and clothing sector. In this new world of quota-free global textile trade, Europe, Tunisia and Morocco must work together to raise our competitiveness, while achieving a smooth transition.”
Commissioner Mandelson will encourage both Morocco and Tunisia to improve investment conditions, particularly by further liberalisation of service markets and further moves to anchor their economic and regulatory systems to that of the EU.
On the Doha Development Agenda, the European Union will encourage both Tunisia and Morocco to take a positive and ambitious approach to services and non-agricultural market access as part of a final Doha settlement.
The European Union is the largest trading partner for both Tunisia and Morocco. Tunisia sends 80% of its exports to the EU and 73% of its imports are from the EU. For Morocco the figures are 70 percent of exports and 63% of imports.
For more information on the EU’s trading relationship with Tunisia and Morocco, please visit: http://ec.europa.eu/trade/issues/bilateral/index_en.htm