News / Middle East

Tunisia Seeks to Boost Regional Economic Ties

FILE - Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki reacts as he signs the new Constitution in Tunis, Jan. 27, 2014
FILE - Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki reacts as he signs the new Constitution in Tunis, Jan. 27, 2014
Mohamed Elshinnawi
During a surprise visit to Tunisia recently, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised the country saying it could be a “model to other peoples seeking reforms.”  

While Tunisia’s political transition has been praised as a regional model, the country’s economy has stagnated.  Discontent over the economy exploded in January when strikes and riots largely shut down the country after new taxes were imposed by the government.  While the taxes were rescinded, Tunisia’s government continues to struggle to revive the economy. 

As part of that effort Tunisia’s President Moncef Marzouki has pledged to revive The Arab Maghreb Union, a regional organization founded in 1989 to  promote trade and political ties between its five members; Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania.

Radwan Masmoudi, president of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy in Washington says Marzouki’s efforts make sense. 

“The Tunisian revolution was about jobs and economic opportunities. Economic development requires a bigger market with free trade partners and investment in economic ventures, so reviving the union could help pull the economies of its members who have a lot in common.” Masmoudi said.

Earlier efforts to foster regional cooperation broke down over the decades-long dispute between Morocco and Algeria over the Western Sahara.

Masmoudi says Tunisia has a role to play in helping to bring the two sides together. “Tunisia can be a mediator in trying to reach an acceptable solution to that dispute which prevented the Union from succeeding.”

But William Lawrence, a Professor of International Relations at George Washington University and a Senior Fellow at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) disagrees.

“2013 was a bad year for Algerian-Moroccan relations, they had several disputes over the same issue and given the Moroccan appetite for scoring points internationally on the Western Sahara issue, I don’t see much chance for a Tunisian role any time soon,” he said. 

Masmoudi says Tunisia can still benefit from both Morocco and Algeria.

“Morocco has a thriving economy, so there are tremendous opportunities for economic cooperation that creates badly needed jobs and Algeria is a very rich neighbor with surplus capital that can be invested in Tunisian agriculture and tourism,” he said.
 
Lawrence agrees, saying regardless of the tensions between Algeria and Morocco Tunisian efforts to revive the Union serve all members.

“All of the Maghreb states are very aware that they lose several points of their respective gross domestic production GDP every year by not having a unified economic activity,” he said.

Tunisia’s economic problems stem in part from the global economic downturn – especially in the EU countries – which are Tunisia’s main trade partner.  So while it is trying to revive the Arab Maghreb Union, Tunisia is also working to develop trade with regional powers like Iran and Turkey.

Tunisia reduced customs duties on imports from Turkey, an early supporter of its revolution.  Turkey’s economy minister recently said that Turkish companies have invested $744 million in Tunisia with more to come.  Turkey also provided a critical $500-million assistance package immediately following Tunisia’s revolution.

Masmoudi says Turkish economic support has been a boon to Tunisia.  “Turkey has become a major economic super power in the region and with its swift support to the Tunisian revolution it became a main partner in energizing Tunisian economy and in technology transfer,” he said.

Tunisian officials have also been outspoken in their diplomatic support for Iran, with President Marzouki criticizing efforts to isolate Tehran over its nuclear program.   In a recent meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Tunisia’s ambassador in Tehran pledged to expand trade and political ties. 
William Lawrence says however Tunisia’s outreach to Tehran is more political than economic.

“Islamists in general have always been long inspired by the 1979 Iranian revolution and in particular Iran’s stance with regard to the Palestinian issue,” he said.

Radwan Masmoudi says regardless of where it finds economic partners it’s vital that Tunisia do so if its revolution and its transition to democracy are to succeed.  

“For the last three years Tunisia focused on developing its democratic institutions and recently ratified a new constitution, but at the end of the day people would like to have jobs and food on their tables. Democracy has to deliver economic development so people can feel that the Tunisian revolution improved their livelihood,” said Masmoudi.

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Sara from: Tunisia
March 04, 2014 11:45 AM
Politics now in the Arab world are a special "tajine" where you should mix many lies, so much hypocrisy, a slice of greed, a spoon of lust and so much loyalty to Big Brother, all should be mixed and cooked on a hot fire:(((((((( that's really pathetic,Allah protect Tunisia and all Arab countries that deserve good future...


by: amir from: tunisia
March 01, 2014 11:59 AM
Moncef Marzouki is a sorry excuse for a president he can't say good morning without lying twice Every word that comes out of his mouth is a complete and total lie
BTW ,your section is wrong Tunisia is in north Africa not the middle east .(-‸ლ)

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid