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Chahed starts official visit to US on July 9

Published the:  07/07/2017

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(TAP/Hassen Khiari) - The President of the Government Youssef Chahed will make on July 9-12 an official visit to the US, at the invitation of President Donald Trump administration.

High-level talks are scheduled as part of this visit of political, economic and security nature. In addition to meetings with senior US officials, Chahed will have a string of talks with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) leaders, notably IMF First Deputy Managing Director David Lipton.

This US trip, Chahed's first as Premier, is taking place at a time when the Trump administration's 2018 budget provides for cuts in economic and military assistance for Tunisia.

The President of the Government will meet with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin to emphasise Tunisia's commitment to the democratic process and shed light on signs of improvement in the economic situation.

At the Congress, Youssef Chahed is expected to meet with members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. A meeting with representatives of the business community will be held by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Under Trump Administration's proposed foreign operations budget for 2018, Tunisia will get

54.6 million dollars (133.5 MTD) that is 85.8 million dollars (209.8 MTD) in budget cuts in comparison with 2017.

A source at the US Embassy in Tunis told TAP "the new finance bill does not provide for the bilateral funding of foreign military forces (FMF) for Tunisia and other countries."

"The elimination of the article in relation to the FMF shows a change in the approach to funding and military aid across the globe, " the source further said.

"This change in the budget approach does neither mean a change of policy towards Tunisia nor a change in the approach to our strong partnership with Tunisia and its armed forces. Tunisia will remain an indispensable and essential partner for the US. "

"This bill presented in Congress has not yet been passed and does not rule out further security actions and programmes as well as additional initiatives that can help Tunisia and the US attain common goals," said the same source.

Several local and foreign media, including in the US, deplored the new US policy on Tunisia.

Some called "incomprehensible" the decision of the US to reduce its commitment towards Tunisia at this delicate stage. The stability and growth of this country, notwithstanding its small size, is crucial for peace and stability in Africa and Europe, they underlined.

The New York Times dedicated an article in its June 25 issue to the crackdown on corruption in Tunisia. It placed emphasis on the determination of the government to stamp out this scourge.

The newspaper spoke about Chahed's US visit in July and said it will focus on means to boost investment in Tunisia and step up security cooperation as well as on aid issues.

A delegation from the US Congress led by Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Rodney Frelinghuysen met on July 4 with President of the Republic Béji Caïd Essebsi and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed.

Caïd Essebsi said he hopes the US would continue to support Tunisia in the coming period.

The congressmen said they are ready to keep on underpinning Tunisia's efforts to anchor the democratic process and take up economic, security and development challenges.