Econostrum - 19 July 2022
Tunisian employers call for a free trade agreement between Tunisia and Algeria
TUNISIA / ALGERIA. The Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA) is campaigning for the signing of a free trade and free movement agreement between Tunisia and Algeria.
In a press release published on Saturday 16 July 2022, the Tunisian employers’ association would like to see the implementation of "principles of freedom of movement, residence, work and property for Algerians in Tunisia and Tunisians in Algeria". This would go hand in hand with the exemption of all taxes on products from both countries. But also "the complete liberalisation of the currencies of the two countries in economic transactions and in tourism, and this after an agreement of the official institutions concerned on a single exchange rate".
The Tunisian bosses also suggest the creation of free trade zones in the border regions, notably "advanced industrial zones to attract direct and joint innovative projects". The idea had already been mentioned in 2016 by Mohsen Hassan, Minister of Trade, without any follow-up. In the mind of the Minister of Trade at the time, these free trade zones on the Tunisian-Algerian border would have made it possible to combat smuggling. In 2017, Wided Bouchamaoui, president of UTICA, raised this possibility again, arguing that they would encourage investment in the border regions.
Algeria and Tunisia increasingly close
The UTICA asks the authorities of the two neighbouring states to "encourage joint investment and establish freedom of investment in the economic sectors", as well as facilitating "access to financing by financial institutions".
On 15 December 2021, Algeria and Tunisia initialled twenty-seven cooperation agreements on justice, security, communication and media, industry, environment, culture, health, youth and sport. In line with this, UTICA sees free trade and free movement as a further step to "boost cooperation in all value-added sectors, including the renewable energy sector and communication technologies, in addition to granting more benefits to tourism and services provided to the citizens of both countries."
This request comes at a time when, on 5 July 2022, the presidents of the two countries, Kaïs Saïed and Abdelmadjid Tebboune, announced the reopening of the Tunisian-Algerian land borders. The barriers were lifted on Friday 15 July after more than two years of closure (March 2020) due to the health crisis caused by Covid-19. Through a joint statement issued on the occasion, the two heads of state had said that Algeria and Tunisia shared "the same history and the same desire to build a solid future based on the same constants and common principles.