EU-Tunisia trade: win-win situation

The stability of Tunisia, the consolidation of its democracy and the reinvigoration of its economy are European Parliament priorities in a Resolution adopted today on the opening of negotiations for an EU-Tunisia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). MEPs want an agreement that will have a positive impact on consumer prices, employment and workers’ wages.

The EPP Group Spokesman in Parliament’s International Trade Committee, Daniel Caspary MEP, welcomes the opening of the negotiations: “We have a duty to offer a hand-up to countries that are committed to democracy and reforms and trade has always been the best tool for transformation and progress. It is in the EU’s interest to help create a ring of wealthy neighbours who will help people prosper in their own countries and not have to leave their homes in search of a better life”. He added: “Tunisia is the best pupil from the Euromed countries. After twenty years since the signing of the Association Agreement, its path towards more stability and prosperity will now be strengthened by the prospect of a full Free Trade Area with the EU.”

At the same time, Parliament urges that the negotiations do not harm the economy of either of the parties, in particular when it comes to agriculture. In an additional Report, the European Parliament demanded the quick introduction of emergency autonomous trade measures for Tunisia offering an additional temporary, unilateral duty free tariff quota of 35,000 tonnes of Tunisian olive oil. This concession should not prejudge the outcome of the agricultural negotiations in the Free Trade Agreement.

“One million Tunisian jobs depend on the olive oil industry. Furthermore, millions of jobs in Europe depend on it as well. We need to make sure that while giving a hand up to the Tunisian industry we don’t kick our European industry down”, said Caspary.

To address the concerns of EU olive oil producers, MEPs inserted additional safeguards such as a mid-term assessment and updating the measures if it turns out that they harm EU olive oil producers, and a ‘tracking clause’ obligation to ensure that all olive oil under the quota is obtained entirely in, and transported directly from, Tunisia. They also rejected the possibility of ‘contemplating’ the extension of the emergency measure beyond the initial two years.