American Congressmen to Propose US-Tunisia Free Trade Agreement
By Pesha Magid
3 July 2012
American Congressman David Dreier hosted a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia today alongside Ambassador Gordon Gray
During the event, Dreier announced that he is leading a bi-partisan delegation of American congressmen to engage in talks with the Constituent Assembly (CA) and Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali. He also underscored his intention to propose a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the United States and Tunisia before the American Congress.
Dreier arrived at the press conference after meeting with CA members in the afternoon, and Jebali in the morning. He stated that his delegation discussed issues concerning women, minorities, and the role of the government in Tunisia’s new constitution. During his meeting with the Prime Minister, Dreier stated that they discussed the economic troubles plaguing Tunisia, specifically unemployment and the “plight of the average Tunisian.”
Dreier, a Republican in the House of Representatives, is the Chairman of the House Democratic Partnership – a group of American politicians striving to promote ties with emerging democracies around the globe. Currently, the group is partnering with 12 emerging democracies and focusing on engagement with their respective legislative bodies, because, according to Dreier, “those are the bodies that interact most closely with the people.”
During the conference, Dreier made it clear that the initiative of the Democratic Partnership does not represent an attempt to undermine Tunisian autonomy, stating that, “we recognize that the revolution came from the people of Tunisia, and we don’t want to put a ‘made in America’ stamp on the Arab Spring.”
Dreier also announced his intention to propose a FTA between the United States and Tunisia to the American government as soon as possible. While he stated that this initiative has the support of both Ambassador Gray and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, he warned that FTAs are controversial within the United States, and that it took about five years for America’s last two FTAs to be ratified.
“I don’t wish to offer false hope, it could take place in a shorter time period. If I had my way, it would be done tomorrow,” Dreier asserted.
When asked if his delegation had any immediate plans to extend economic aid to Tunisia, he answered that foreign assistance is not popular in the United States. He explained that people are often unwilling to see the, “tax dollars of US citizens sent around the world.”
Dreier said that while he wishes to stimulate Tunisia’s economic sector, he prefers trade over aid. He explained that a FTA would go a long way toward addressing America’s concern with Tunisian unemployment.
He concluded by saying that after his meetings with CA members and Jebali he is very optimistic about the future of the Tunisian people, and that “democracy is a work in progress for both the United States and Tunisia.”