Chief of Staff Ferchichi,
Director General Ben Halima,
Representatives of partner organizations and artisans,
Hello and welcome. I am delighted to be here to participate in the signing of the partnership agreement between the ONAT and Family Health International (FHI) 360. I am also glad to be a part of this impressive Tunisian handicraft fair.
Supporting the handicrafts sector is a priority area for U.S. assistance in Tunisia. The Embassy allocated $3.2 million to support the handicraft sector.
The agreement we sign today provides artisans with technical expertise to help make Tunisian products more competitive internationally. It allows Tunisian artisans to enter new markets, including the United States.
Thanks in part to this assistance, the United States is now the top export country for Tunisian handicrafts, with sales of more than 17 million dinars in 2018, more than tripling 2017 exports to the United States, and creating much needed jobs in particular for Tunisian women in the interior of the country.
The quality of your products is the key to success in the American market. American are increasingly smitten with Tunisian handicrafts. American homes are more likely than ever before to have artisanal harissa from Cap Bon in their pantries, or ceramics from Nabeul on their tables, or carpets from Kairouan on their floors.
I do believe we can continue to build on this success and increase exports even further. We are celebrating today the signature of an MOU with FHI360. But I would also like to mention the great work of our other partners, AmCham and Creative Learning.
And of course, a huge thank you to ONAT, without whose openness these programs would not have been possible. I am also grateful to ONAT for providing space here for all three of our implementing partners to display their achievements and successes.
Together we can continue to help Tunisians export their products to the United States and elsewhere. And I look forward to seeing ever more Tunisian handicrafts in American shops and homes.
Thank you, and good luck.