At the Joint Economic Commission (JEC) held today in Washington, Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine A. Novelli and Tunisian Minister of Vocational Training and Employment Zied Ladhari acknowledged the growing economic partnership between Tunisia and the United States, as well as the engagement of the private sector in building Tunisia’s economy. Both governments and the private sector made commitments to support initiatives in three key sectors for this Commission: Agro/Food, Small and Medium Enterprises, and Information and Communications Technology. Both governments reaffirmed their commitment to the promotion of social and economic development in Tunisia in the framework of strategic partnership between the two parties.
Bringing Opportunity to the Agro/Food Sector
The U.S. Departments of State and Commerce committed to sponsor agricultural and trade roadshows within 12 months that will increase knowledge of U.S. agro-trade opportunities and promote market access. These will complement the set of workshops in Tunisia planned by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on the requirements of the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences program.
The U.S., through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Business Reform and Competitiveness Project (BRCP), committed to provide targeted training and technical support to facilitate high-potential exports.
The Tunisian Ministries of Agriculture, Industry, and Trade committed to collaborate with the private sector to create a three-year roadmap to increase market access and bilateral commercial engagement. USAID committed to contribute technical assistance.
AmCham Tunisia/Partnership for a New Beginning (PNB) pledged to create three centers of excellence for cereals, olive oil, and fruits and vegetables, and to use expertise gained from agribusiness AmCham Days to promote increased trade.
The Tunisian American Young Professionals committed to conduct a webinar training on export readiness within 12 months.
Strengthening Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) The Government of Tunisia, through the Ministry of Employment, agreed to form and lead an inter-ministerial/private sector coordinating committee to create a website within six months describing administrative processes in support of SMEs, starting with business registration. The website will evolve into an online business registration portal and one stop shop with links to financial resources and mentoring opportunities provided by the private sector. USAID will offer funding from the BRCP to assist.
The Tunisian American Enterprise Fund committed to initiate an ease of doing business report within six months. The Government of Tunisia pledged to consider the report’s recommendations.
USAID announced creation of 6,015 sustainable private sector jobs in the last year, and committed to create 6,500 more in the next 12 months through the BRCP.
AmCham Tunisia/PNB pledged to create an SME Export Lab within six months and hold another series of AmCham Days supporting SMEs.
Growing the Tunisian Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Sector
The Tunisian Ministry of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy committed to submit a new Telecom/Digital Communications Code to Parliament within six months, build a coaching program with the private sector to help U.S. investors enter the Tunisian market, and establish Smart Tunisia representation in Silicon Valley.
The Government of Tunisia committed to connect 60% of Tunisians to the internet by 2018.
The U.S. Government committed to identify technical expertise through the Global Connect Initiative to support implementation of the Digital Tunisia Strategy, and identify partnership opportunities in helping the Government of Tunisia connect all of its citizens.
AmCham Tunisia/PNB pledged to open a chapter in Silicon Valley by the end of 2016, replicate the Tunisian Business School Smart Center training concept at other Tunisian universities, and implement a three-month skills development training program within 12 months.
Conclusion The Joint Economic Commission concluded with Under Secretary Novelli and Minister Ladhari’s pledges to deepen economic ties and cooperation between the United States and the public and private sectors of Tunisia. As a follow up mechanism, both parties agreed to appoint two focal points each in the U.S. State Department and the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They looked forward to the next U.S.-Tunisia Joint Economic Commission in Tunisia in 2017, when they will build on the progress of this year’s commitments.