History of the U.S.-Tunisia Relationship

U.S.-Tunisian Relations Over 200 Years of Friendship

From the beginning of its existence as an independent country, the United States has had strong diplomatic relations with Tunisia. Two years after the U.S. Declaration of Independence, John Adams (who was to become the second President of the United States) noted that “There are other nations with which it is more urgent to conclude treaties … By this, I mean Morocco and the Regencies of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli.”  This suggestion was taken seriously and, on March 26, 1799, the first agreement of friendship and trade was concluded between Tunisia and the United States.  Thanks to the kind cooperation of the Tunisian National Archives, the Tunisian original of this agreement is today available for viewing in the Embassy IRC.

The first American consulate was established in Tunis on January 20, 1800, one of the many diplomatic buildings clustered around the Place de la Bourse in the Medina. In September 1805, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson received a Tunisian special envoy, and in 1865, after the Civil War, another Tunisian ambassador was sent to the U.S. with a message of friendship to the American people.

During Tunisia’s struggle for independence, leaders of the national liberation movement established good relations with the United States. On May 17, 1956, the U.S. was the first great power to recognize the sovereign state of Tunisia and, soon after that, moved its Embassy to Avenue de la Liberté.

In March 1957, an agreement for American economic and technical aid, the first in a long series, was signed in Tunis.  During its 35 years in the country, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) made available over $1.4 billion in low-interest loans, grants, technical assistance, and sales/grants of agricultural commodities in Tunisia. USAID played a critical part in the construction of the Tunis/Carthage airport and other major capital projects such as the Oued Nebhana Dam, pipeline and irrigation systems located in Central Tunisia, highways and bridges throughout the country and improvements in water supply systems serving Tunisian cities. In 1961, Tunisia became the first Arab country to request and receive Peace Corps Volunteers, starting a partnership between our two countries that spanned 34 years and enabled 2,382 Americans to join forces with the people of Tunisia in a common endeavor to improve the human condition.

Today the ties of friendship and cooperation between Tunisia and the United States continue to be strengthened within the framework of mutual understanding and common adherence to the ideals and values of liberty, democracy, and free enterprise. The Embassy’s move in November 2002 to modern facilities in Berges du Lac symbolizes U.S. commitment to continuing this strong and important relationship that has thrived for over two hundred years.