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Tunisian, Moroccan officials look at means to overcome obstacles impeding trade and access to African market

Published the:  20/06/2017

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(TAP special correspondent Moufida Ben Touati) – The Tunisian government officials and the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA) representatives examined with their Moroccan counterparts during works of the 19th session of the Tunisian-Moroccan High Joint Commission held on June 18-19 in Rabat under co-chairmanship of Prime Ministers Youssef Chahed and Saâdeddine El Othmani, means to overcome difficulties impeding trade between both countries and to step up investment in both sides.

They also looked at means to refine co-ordination mechanisms in order to include the African markets in a bilateral economic complementary framework.

Both sides reaffirmed keenness to speed up the pace of trade, especially as the Moroccan PM undertook to grant a particular interest to Tunisian businessmen, UTICA Representative Hichem Elloumi told TAP correspondent in Rabat.

“The difficulties posed do not arise from customs but from Moroccan standards and technical control of Tunisian merchandises as well as problems at the level of Moroccan ports,” he added.

For his part, economic advisor to the Prime Minister Faycal Hafiene estimated that bilateral meetings had been fruitful and led to the prospection of mechanisms and solutions to the problems facing Tunisian businessmen, notably in the field of exports,” specifying that it had been agreed that the Moroccan Secretary of State for Foreign Trade will pay a working visit to Tunisia and that the joint file tracking commission will meet periodically.

“The two premiers undertook to personally follow up works of the joint commission and chair the two countries' businessmen forum scheduled for the end of year in Morocco,” he said.

Hafiene pointed out in another connection, that both sides had discussed the reinforcement of the Tunisian and Moroccan presence in Africa by boosting co-operation to conquer more African markets.

Moroccan officials had affirmed willingness to help Tunisia reinforce its presence in the African Continent making the most of the Moroccan experience in Africa notably in the banking and transport fields, he affirmed, specifying that “there will be no competition, but complementarity.”

Secretary of State for Foreign Trade Abdelatif Hmam asserted for his part, that the agreements concluded between Tunisia and Morocco Monday in Rabat “will help achieve a qualitative leap in bilateral economic co-operation, enrich the current legal framework governing exchanges between both countries and offer a favourable climate for businessmen.”

“The volume of trade between both countries is estimated at 600 million Tunisian dinars (around $250 million) which falls short of the two countries' opportunities and means,” he regretted, pointing out that an ambitious goal has been set for the next three years to increase trade exchanges to reach $500 million.

“This goal will be achieved by opting for trade management techniques and modes and by easing customs procedures while strengthening bilateral co-operation with Sub-Saharan Africa, supporting businessmen and multiplying joint meetings and forums,” he added.

A co-ordination meeting for the joint commission had been held between representatives of different Tunisian and Moroccan ministries and organisations to discuss these difficulties.

Representatives of the Tunisian Industry and Trade Ministry, the Export Promotion Centre (CEPEX) and UTICA pointed out on the occasion the difficulties facing Tunisian exporters toward the Moroccan market, mainly represented by the required second analysis of Tunisian goods (those made by the Tunisian laboratories are not acknowledged), leading to their liquidation after a seizure that could reach sometimes three months and making Tunisian exporters assume caused damages.

Tunisian products are also subject to custom fees of 63% in some cases while some Tunisian exporters are not considered as “net” exporters of international trade product, which is considered as a violation of the provisions of the bilateral trade agreement and the Greater Arab Free Trade Area agreement as well as the Agadir agreement establishing a great free trade area between the Mediterranean Arab countries.

For its part, Tunisia grants access facilities to Moroccan goods in the Tunisian market, according to a document a copy of which was received by TAP.