The US government has reopened trade talks with Tunisia, following that country’s spring revolution. By enhancing ties between the two countries, the US hopes to insure that Tunisia makes a stable and sustainable transition to democracy.
Negotiations are occurring under a 2002 framework called the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). An initial round of meetings held in September will be followed by the establishment of a US-Tunisia Council on Trade and Investment.
Tunisia has a robust garment and apparel sector, specializing in semi-finished goods and footwear manufacturing. According to the United States Trade Representative, US exports to Tunisia were $571 million in 2010 and US imports were approximately $406 million. 23.8% of that total, or $71.7 million, consisted of apparel imports. The Office of Textiles and Apparel reports that US imports of Tunisian textiles have increased 11.8% since August 2010. US exports of textiles to Tunisia were $10.6 million through August, 2011, a fall of 9.4% over August 2010. A free trade agreement would boost US exports by eliminating barriers to trade.
The TIFA talks have identified several areas of interest such as tariff reduction, reducing barriers to investment in key economic areas, and strengthening protection of intellectual property rights. At the moment, there is no pending schedule for a free trade agreement. However, the US-Tunisia Council on Trade and Investment is empowered to recommend one once it has assessed the costs and benefits. A timeline for the negotiations has not been set.