A sort of cold war involving a series of complex issues has been going on the last few weeks in Tunisia between the presidency of the republic and the presidency of the government regarding preparations for the 2019 general elections.
The winner emerging from that shadowy conflict is Tunisia’s economic diplomacy, the only quiet force in the country, Middle East Online reported.
There are signs Tunisia is inching its way out of its economic crisis and Tunisians have their country’s economic diplomacy to thank for that. Everything that could be done diplomatically to save Tunisia’s exhausted economy has been done.
Tunisia’s diplomats have focused on finding new markets for the country’s products, attracting foreign investors and selling Tunisia as one of the best tourist destinations in the Mediterranean.
They’ve done this despite sensitive security and diplomatic issues, particularly related to the situation in neighboring Libya. Tunisians are hopeful that once the dust settles in Libya, Tunisia’s economy will boom again.
The ministry of foreign affairs collaborated with 14 other ministries and government agencies. In addition to partnerships with traditional trade allies, many hopes are pinned to two new major strategic alliances that promise to drive an imminent economic boom. Many trade and investment deals have been signed within the framework of the partnerships.
It took Tunisia more than two years of tough negotiations to be accepted into the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa group starting next year.
COMESA represents a market of about 500 million consumers in 19 countries with a combined gross domestic product of as much as $800 billion. The yearly volume of trade between COMESA members is about $250 billion. Obviously, such potential is attractive to Tunisian exports in addition to attracting African investments to Tunisia.
Tunisian authorities are convinced that exports are vital for the country’s economy. It is essential for Tunisia to boost exports because of the country’s dependence on foreign currency. The Tunisian central bank’s reserves of hard currency have fallen dramatically since January 2011. Recent statistics place them at $4.4 billion.
There is a consensus in Tunisian economic circles, and even among the political opposition, that the 1995 partnership agreement with the European Union was catastrophic for the industrial sector in Tunisia. There are fears that EU-Tunisia Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, which is being negotiated, will ruin other vital economic sectors, especially farming, because Tunisia’s agricultural products cannot compete with their European counterparts.