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The EU and Tunisia have close and long-standing trade relations. Tunisia was the first partner in the EU’s Southern Neighbourhood (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine*, Syria and Tunisia) to sign and implement an Association Agreement with the EU. The EU is the biggest foreign investor in Tunisia, accounting for 85% of the foreign direct investment (FDI) stock in the country.
- The EU is Tunisia's largest trade partner, accounting for 57.9% of its trade in 2020: 70.9% of Tunisia's exports went to the EU and 48.3% of Tunisia's imports came from the EU. Tunisia is the EU’s 35th biggest trade partner, representing 0.5% of the EU’s total trade with the world in 2020.
- Total trade in goods between the EU and Tunisia in 2020 amounted to €17.4 billion. The EU's imports from Tunisia amounted to €8.6 billion and were mostly made up of machinery and transport equipment (€3.5 billion, 40.7%), textiles (€2.0 billion, 23.5%) and agricultural products (€0.7 billion, 8.1%). The EU's exports to Tunisia amounted to €8.8 billion and were dominated by machinery and transport equipment (€2.9 billion, 32.9%), followed by textiles (€1.1 billion, 12.5%), mineral products (€0.8 billion, 9.1%) and chemicals (€0.8 billion, 9.1%), as well as plastics and rubber products (€0.7 billion, 7.9%).
- Two-way trade in services amounted to €4.35 billion in 2019, with EU imports of services representing €3.05 billion and exports €1.3 billion.
- FDI flows remained relatively steady between 2013 and 2019, resulting in a total EU FDI stock of €4.2 billion in Tunisia at the end of 2019. FDI flows to Tunisia are concentrated on developing the infrastructure network, and on the textiles and clothing sectors. EU companies are the biggest foreign investors in Tunisia, accounting for over 85% of FDI entering the country, and the biggest employers, responsible for 81% of the total employment generated by FDI.
The EU and Tunisia
The EU and Tunisia have concluded an Association Agreement, which was signed in July 1995 and entered into force on 30 March 1998. The Agreement established a free trade area under which all two-way trade in industrial products takes place free of any trade tariffs. Regarding agricultural, agri-food and fisheries products, the EU and Tunisia agreed to progressively open their respective markets for selected products. Alongside these reductions in trade tariffs, the Association Agreement also contains provisions under which the EU and Tunisia have agreed to:
- rules and disciplines on the use of non-tariff-based trade measures such as quotas and product standards;
- a general right to establish businesses and provide services in the other party’s territory;
- allow for current payments and movement of capital, and;
- have common rules on competition and intellectual property.
In 2009, the EU and Tunisia signed a bilateral protocol on the establishment of a dispute settlement mechanism, which entered into force in September 2011.
Negotiations for a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) between the EU and Tunisia were launched in Tunis on 13 October 2015. The overall goal of the negotiations is to create new trade and investment opportunities and to better integrate Tunisia's economy into the EU single market. The DCFTA also aims to support ongoing economic reforms in Tunisia and to bring Tunisian legislation closer to that of the EU in trade-related areas.
The fourth full round of the EU-DCFTA negotiations took place in Tunis during the week of 29 April -3 May 2019. Discussions covered a wide range of issues including agriculture, services and sustainable development. The EU and Tunisia published a joint report, the EU-proposed negotiation texts and explanatory factsheets following the round. Negotiations have been put on hold for the time being. See full report.
A Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) of the DCFTA with Tunisia was carried out by an independent contractor in 2013.
In 2021, under the new EU Trade Policy Review, the EU has offered to discuss modernising trade and investment relations with Tunisia, to better adapt them to today’s challenges.
- The European Neighbourhood Policy provides a framework for political and financial assistance from the EU to Tunisia. For the period 2017-2020, under the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), €900 million (€300 million per year) was committed to bilateral assistance for Tunisia. This aimed to support the following three priority areas: (i) promoting good governance and the rule of law; (ii) investing in the future by stimulating sustainable economic growth and generating employment; and (iii) reinforcing social cohesion between generations and regions.
- Under the EU Multiannual Financial Framework for the period 2021-2027, a new broad financial cooperation instrument – the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) – will be adopted, which will be the basis to support future EU-Tunisia cooperation.
- Tunisia is one of the largest recipients of EU funds in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy. More information on EU support is available on the site of the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations.
Tunisia in the Southern Neighbourhood
The EU established its privileged partnership with the Eastern and Southern shores of the Mediterranean back in 1995 with the launch of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership at the Barcelona Conference, aiming to establish an area of peace, stability and economic prosperity that upholds democratic values and human rights.
The 25th anniversary of the Barcelona Process in November 2020 was an opportunity to reflect on the strategic partnership with the region in light of the political, socioeconomic, financial and environmental challenges exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and to reassess the EU’s partnership with Tunisia and the other Southern Neighbourhood partner countries. Following consultations with partners, this reflection resulted in the Joint Communication by the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on ‘A renewed partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood - A new Agenda for the Mediterranean’ and the annexed ‘Economic and Investment Plan for the Southern Neighbours’ in February 2021.
In 2004, Tunisia signed the Agadir Agreement with Jordan, Egypt, and Morocco. This committed all parties to remove all tariffs on trade between them and to harmonise their legislation with regard to standards and customs procedures. The Agadir Agreement entered into force in July 2006, and an Agadir Technical Unit in Amman ensures its implementation. Lebanon and Palestine joined the Agreement in 2020.
The impact of trade component of the EU’s Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement with Tunisia was assessed in the Ex-Post Evaluation of Trade Chapters of the Six Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreements with the EU’s Southern Neighbours (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia), which was published by the European Commission in 2021.
The pan-Euro-Mediterranean cumulation and the PEM Convention on rules of origin
The pan-Euro-Mediterranean cumulation system of origin was created in 2005. It brings together the EU, Tunisia, and other partners in Europe and the Mediterranean to support regional integration by creating a common system of rules of origin. Rules of origin are the technical criteria which determine whether a specific product qualifies for duty-free or other preferential access under a given trade agreement.
Cumulation of origin means a product coming from one partner country can be processed or added to a product of a second partner country and still be considered an ‘originating product’ of that second partner country for the purposes of a particular trade agreement.
The pan-Euro-Mediterranean system allows for diagonal cumulation (i.e. cumulation between two or more countries) between the EU, EFTA countries, Turkey, the Western Balkans, the Faroe Islands, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and any country that signed the Barcelona Declaration of 1995. The system was originally based on a network of Free Trade Agreements with identical origin protocols.
These individual origin protocols are being progressively replaced by a reference to the Regional Convention on pan-Euro-Mediterranean preferential rules of origin (PEM Convention), which was established in 2011 to provide a more unified framework for origin protocols. Tunisia acceded to the Regional Convention on 1 January 2015.
Trading with Tunisia
- Importing into the EU from Tunisia
- EU trade defence measures on imports from Tunisia
- Exporting from the EU to Tunisia
- Trade relations are part of the EU's overall political and economic relations with Tunisia
- Tunisia is a member of the World Trade Organization