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EFTA and Tunisia conclude free trade agreement

Geneva, 17 December 2004

European Free Trade Association press release


On the occasion of their Ministerial Meeting in Geneva (Switzerland), held on 17 December 2004, the Member States of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) - Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland - signed a Free Trade Agreement with the Republic of Tunisia.

This is the seventh free trade agreement that the EFTA States have concluded with a Mediterranean partner country participating in the Barcelona process.

By concluding an agreement with Tunisia, the EFTA States have established preferential trade relations with 14 States and Territories, in addition to the 25 Member States of the European Union.

The EFTA-Tunisia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) covers trade in industrial goods, including fish and other marine products, as well as processed agricultural products. The Agreement also contains substantive provisions on intellectual property, competition and dispute settlement and covers certain aspects of services, investment and government procurement. Moreover, the EFTA States and Tunisia concluded bilateral agreements on trade in agricultural products.

Negotiations on the EFTA-Tunisia Free Trade Agreement were launched in Tunis in October 1996 and concluded this year after six rounds of negotiations.

The EFTA States, totalling 12 million citizens, now have free trade agreements with partner countries that represent a population of 290 million, in addition to the free trade relations with the European Union, which comprises a population of 455 million.

Overview of areas covered by the Agreement

Trade in Goods

The EFTA-Tunisia FTA covers trade in industrial products, including fish and other marine products, as well as processed agricultural products. The Agreement takes into consideration the different levels of economic development of the EFTA States on the one hand and Tunisia on the other by providing for asymmetric tariff dismantling. The EFTA States will eliminate duties and other restrictions for covered products upon entry into force of the Agreement, while Tunisia will gradually abolish its duties during a transition period. The Agreement contains rules of origin according to the model of the Euro-med cumulation system. Trade in basic agricultural products is covered by arrangements concluded bilaterally between each EFTA State and Tunisia.

Co-operation in other areas

The Agreement provides for unrestricted payments for current transactions and ensures that capital relating to direct investments can move freely, including the repatriation and liquidation of benefits. In addition, the Parties have agreed to grant each other’s investments full protection and security as well as fair and equitable treatment in accordance with international law.

The Parties aim at achieving gradual liberalisation and the mutual opening of their markets for trade in services in accordance with the provisions of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Moreover, the EFTA-Tunisia FTA sets the objective of reciprocal and gradual liberalisation of public procurement markets. With regard to both fields, the EFTA States and Tunisia will enter into consultations if a Party grants additional benefits to third parties.

The Agreement contains the usual trade disciplines, including rules concerning anti-competitive practices.

Economic co-operation and technical assistance

The EFTA States commit themselves to engage in economic co-operation and to provide technical assistance to Tunisia in order to facilitate the implementation of the Agreement. Such co-operation and assistance include the enhancement of trading and investment opportunities and support to Tunisia’s own efforts to achieve sustainable economic and social development. They will focus on sectors that face particular challenges as well as on sectors that will generate growth and employment.

Protection of Intellectual Property

The Agreement provides for a high level of protection of intellectual property rights, covering areas such as patents, copyright, undisclosed information, industrial designs and geographical indications.

Dispute Settlement

The provisions on dispute settlement contain rules and procedures for the settlement of disputes arising from the Agreement between one or several EFTA States and Tunisia, including consultations and arbitration.

 source: EFTA