Minister Rekik, Director General Bin Halima, and representatives of partner organizations: hello and welcome. Thank you for inviting me to join you today and to participate in the signing of these three partnership agreements between the ONAT and FHI360, AmCham, and Creative Learning and its local partner, the International Institute for Human Development.
Supporting the handicrafts sector is a priority area for U.S. assistance in Tunisia. The projects facilitated by these agreements – which include a total budget of 1.5 million dollars — provide Tunisian artisans with the technical expertise to bring their products in line with international standards. It allows Tunisian handicrafts to enter new markets, including in the U.S.
I’m proud to say that this will not only create new jobs, but it will provide particular opportunities to women, especially those from the interior. When the creativity and drive of its citizens is unleashed, Tunisia can compete on a level playing field to sell to and partner with American companies. I have been luck to witness in firsthand the determination of so many talented men and women.
And as the Tunisian poet said:
And it was announced in the universe that ambition is the flame of life, and the spirit of success.
If souls had ambition for life, then Destiny must comply.
The United States stands by the Tunisian people as they apply the democratic principles of transparency and fair competition to improve their economic climate, encourage investment, and create new jobs. We are proud of the partnership between our two countries, and of its foundation in good governance and meritocracy. To that end, I would like to take a moment to wish you, as a friend of Tunisia, a successful municipal election. I had the opportunity two weeks ago to attend a workshop organized by IWatch in which I learned about the preparation of civil society for the upcoming municipal elections.
Greater political inclusion through municipal elections and meaningful local governance is intrinsically related to economic inclusion such as that we are celebrating today.
Let me also take this opportunity to thank the representative of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Marianne McManus, who facilitated the visit of three U.S. buyers in addition to helping design and distribute the handicraft export guide. Marianne embodies the United States’ seriousness in partnering with Tunisia to achieve common goals. Inclusion of the handicraft sector in our strategic five-year plan ensures that partnership will continue for years to come.
Thank you, and good luck.