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European Commission


Brussels, 28 November 2012

Mission for Growth: creating economic ties to benefit Tunisia and the EU

Today, Vice President Antonio Tajani travels to Tunisia accompanied by a large business delegation composed of 39 representatives of 37 European companies and industry associations. Collectively they represent approximately 400 000 employees and more than € 680 billion in turnover. This mission, in conjunction with yesterday's visit to Morocco, is part of the new series of "Missions for Growth" to help European enterprises, in particular small and medium sized enterprises, to better profit from fast growing emerging international markets. The visit will reinforce partnerships to help industry and SMEs to fully exploit the potential for commercial relations between Tunisia and the EU.

During his visit in Tunisia, Vice President Tajani will hold discussions with President Marzouki, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali and Minister for Industry Mohamed Lamine Chakhari. VP Tajani will also meet with the Minister for tourism, Elyes Fakhfekh.

With his Tunisian counterparts VP Tajani will sign Letters of Intent in the fields of:

1. Reduction of SME administrative burden via closer co-operation

The aims are to improve the business environment, promote entrepreneurship, help Tunisian and European SMEs to grow and do business together and to better compete in the global economy. The dialogue is part of the Euro-Mediterranean industrial cooperation and the Euro-Mediterranean Charter for Enterprise. Tunisia is actively involved in both processes. The Letter will improve the framework conditions for SMEs by reducing administrative burdens, increase access to finance, and improve markets by modernising the regulatory environment. Such cooperation will help to identify the main obstacles related to regulatory and administrative environment for SMEs, as well as finding appropriate solutions to overcome them.

2. Co-operation in tourism policy

The intention of this Letter of Intent is to establish a bilateral consultation mechanism to promote cooperation on and a common understanding of issues in the field of tourism. In particular, by holding regular dialogue of senior officials and exchanging best practices on subjects of mutual interest, such as sectoral economic growth and job creation, sustainable development and reinforcement of socio-economic knowledge.

3. Standardisation - Removing technical barriers to trade

The aim of this Letter of Intent is to remove technical barriers to trade, to improve economic, scientific and technical relations, to ensure the compatibility and interoperability of supplied products and to work towards:

  • establishing a periodic dialogue and exchange of information on each side's initiatives in standardisation,

  • improving the continuity, efficiency and effectiveness of this dialogue, in particular by involving all relevant stakeholders of both sides, and

  • exchanging good standardisation practice between EU and Egyptian authorities and the main stakeholders. This dialogue will also focus on increasing mutual cooperation at international level, and on the use of standards in regulation with a view to harmonize practices.

4. Raw materials - Supply of raw materials to downstream industries

The EU and Tunisia should strive to provide a comprehensive response to questions linked to the key role in the supply of raw materials to downstream industries. They should also cooperate so as to ensure the sustainability and long-term competitiveness of the phosphate rock industry, to limit risks to human health and the environment — due to the presence of cadmium and other heavy metals in the phosphate rock being used as an input material for the production of food additives, feed additives and fertilisers. A dialogue will also be conducted as part of the EU-Tunisia Action Plan on European Neighbourhood Policy, to promote mutual understanding, enhance bilateral cooperation and the exchange of information on raw materials and mining policies. Communication channels should also be established to strengthen information exchange.

5. Satellite services – Co-operation on satellite-based augmentation services

This Letter of Intent will reinforce cooperation with Tunisia on the international dimension of satellite navigation systems. It will form the basis of close cooperation with Tunisia so as to foster promotion activities for the adoption of satellite-based augmentation services in the Mediterranean region, through the use of the European EGNOS system. Also Tunisia should ensure that the operation and maintenance of the EGNOS station located in Djerba — including import and export of the required equipment — will continue smoothly in order to guarantee optimal coverage of the region.

6. Processes for agricultural projects

There is great potential to significantly improve bilateral trade relations in this sector. This letter of Intent aims to achieve greater liberalisation in the fields of processed agricultural and fisheries products and thus support the development of Tunisian agri-food sectors. This would be extremely profitable for industry in both zones and would provide consumers with greater choice.

Conference: Business and Technology Crossroads 2012 – CAT 2012

Vice President Tajani will also attend presentations on "Business and Technology Crossroads 2012 – CAT 2012" and "Employing Young People in Tunisia and the MENA region", where he will meet with local and international industry interest groups, including Férid Tounsi, Director General of Agency for the promotion of Industry and innovation (API), Wided Bouchamaoui, President of the Union of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA), and Kandeh Yumkella, Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (ONUDI); as well as representatives of international banks; The African Bank for Development, the World bank and the Islamic bank for Development.

Tunisia: Economic background

Surface Area: 163.6 thousand sq km

Population: 10.7 millions of inhabitants - 2011

GDP in 2011: € 35.2 billion

GDP per capita 2011: € 3 299.3

EU goods exports to Tunisia in 2011: € 10.9 billion

EU goods imports from Tunisia in 2011: €9.9 billion

Although economic growth in Tunisia has been slow, its GDP increased by 4.8% in the first quarter of 2012. However increased political stability is a requirement in order to attract and foster FDI.

Tunisia's foreign trade

Exports: The EU is Tunisia's main trading partner, absorbing 74.1% of Tunisia's total exports. In recent years Tunisia exports to the EU have increased. The structure of Tunisia’s exports broadly reflects the structure of the economy. Tunisia's pattern of imports is dominated by the needs of its manufacturing sector. Hence, mechanical and electrical equipment, which satisfy the demand for capital goods, and textiles, as an intermediate input, are major imports in value terms.

Imports: The largest single group of imports to Tunisia come from the EU. In 2010 the imports from the EU to Tunisia accounted for 66.9% of the total import to the Tunisian market. China and Turkey are the second and third largest sources of imports to Tunisia. The main EU products exported to Tunisia are: (i) machinery and transport equipment; (ii) fuels and mining products (iii) chemicals.

Major markets: European Union, China and United States.

EU trade with Tunisia

Exports: EU exports to Tunisia have slightly increased over time and represent 0.7% of total EU exports. In terms of major export partners for the EU, Tunisia ranks number 29.

Imports: imports from Tunisia to the EU represent only 0.6% of the total imports to the European market and Tunisia ranks only 34 in terms of EU import partners.

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