Tunisian and Algerian businessmen discuss free-trade zone

Maghrebia | 12/02/2008

Tunisian and Algerian businessmen discuss free-trade zone

Businessmen from Algeria and Tunisia met Friday in Tunis to discuss ways to improve trade between the two countries. Among the subjects covered at the meeting was the proposed Tunisian-Algerian Free-Trade Zone, currently under review in both countries.

By Mona Yahya for Magharebia in Tunis

Tunisia and Algeria held talks to move forward with the establishment of a free-trade zone. Arabi Suissi, head of the Algerian businessmen’s delegation, said "Dealings with Tunisia, a neighbouring country, cannot be limited while they are advanced with the EU."

More than two hundred Algerian and Tunisian businessmen met in Kef, Tunisia on Friday (February 8th) for the annual Algerian-Tunisian Businessmen’s Forum. The Tunisian Union for Industry, Trade and Traditional Handicrafts organised the event under the theme "With Partnership, Cooperation and Integration, We Open up Horizons and Sweep Markets" to mark the 50th anniversary of the Sakiet Sidi Youssef massacre and to coincide with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s visit to Tunis.

Attendees recommended that a Maghreb investment and development bank be established to support investors and traders in the region, and that a businessman’s pass card respected by border authorities be put into effect as soon as possible.

Participants stressed the need for a joint plan to address the phenomenon of parallel trade and to control the black market that damages the economic interests of both countries.

At the conclusion of the forum, the businessmen called for accelerating the process of ratifying the Tunisian-Algerian Free-Trade Zone and moving on to implementation.

During Bouteflika’s visit, a spokesman for the Tunisian president disclosed that the two leaders renewed their commitment to promoting versatile trade exchange and private sector joint ventures. The talks also addressed developments in the region and ways to advance the Arab Maghreb Union initiative.

Algerian Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem has called for providing the private sector with access to all proper working mechanisms and a suitable environment for co-operation and partnership, pointing out that trade between the two countries is below its potential. Improved economic exchange between the two countries has given rise to 75 joint industrial projects, 40 of which are in Algeria, while their trade increased in 2007 to $508m from around $330m in 2004. However, of more than 3,000 foreign companies active in Tunis, most are from EU countries. Algerian firms account for just 1% of the total number.

Arabi Suissi, head of the Algerian businessmen’s delegation, said, "We are expecting better relations than before and we have felt there is political will in this regard. I consider the trade exchange between the two countries insufficient and limited. Dealings with Tunisia, a neighbouring country, cannot be limited while they are advanced with the EU."

During a Tunisian-Algerian symposium on handicrafts sector development, Tunisian Trade and Handicrafts Minister Ridha Touiti called for more exchange of training and innovation. He also called for sharing raw materials and more joint projects, as well as general promotion of handicrafts industries.

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source: Maghrebia