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  While the taxes were rescinded, Tunisia’s government continues to struggle to revive the economy.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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More