To demonstrate the United States’ commitment to Tunisia’s transition to democracy, and to underscore the reforms needed to attract investment, generate economic growth, and create jobs in the country, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker led a delegation to Tunisia this week. In addition to offering a keynote address at the Investment and Entrepreneurship Conference, hosted by the Partnership for New Beginnings and the American Chamber of Commerce in Tunisia, Secretary Pritzker met with Tunisian government officials, business leaders, and entrepreneurs to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing the country’s economy.
In a meeting with representatives from the American Chamber of Commerce in Tunisia, Secretary Pritzker received input on the country’s current business environment and discussed potential opportunities for U.S. firms in the market. For example, Tunisia’s location on the coast can make it an ideal hub for operations in the Middle East and Africa. Others spoke about the opportunities in the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector, specifically.
About 70 American firms operate in Tunisia right now, but there is substantial room for that figure to grow should Tunisia make certain economic reforms that will create a more inviting business climate. Some of these reforms include streamlining the investment code, restructuring the banking sector, creating a more transparent, reliable, and modern tax and customs structure, and developing a strong public-private partnerships law that increases transparency and predictability for domestic and foreign firms.
Later in the day, Secretary Pritzker held a roundtable with a diverse group of members of the Tunisian Parliament. Secretary Pritzker was joined by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, and the group discussed U.S. support for Tunisia and also touched on needed economic reforms. Secretaries Pritzker and Albright also led a roundtable with Tunisian entrepreneurs to discuss how entrepreneurship can be a driving force for economic growth, peace, and stability around the world. As the Administration’s point person on entrepreneurship and the chair of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative, Secretary Pritzker used the roundtable to learn more about the challenges facing start-ups in Tunisia. Some of the issues discussed included gaining access to capital, a steady supply chain, and new markets, transportation and distribution, and finding a skilled workforce.
In all of the conversations, Secretary Pritzker stressed that the United States is committed to strengthening its partnership with Tunisia. The Department of Commerce and the Obama Administration will continue working to advance economic reforms that will unleash growth, attract investment, and expand opportunities for Tunisia’s population, enabling the country to leverage its political progress to emerge over time as a successful, sustainable democratic model for the Arab world.
Video of the meeting: