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Tunisia: Negotiations begin on free trade agreement with EU

Tunisia’s Trade Minister Ridha Lahouel and the EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom yesterday announced the launch of negotiations on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA).

In a joint press conference Lahouel said that the EU’s negotiating team will be in Tunisia 19-30 October. He stressed that the Tunisian government will consult with all elements of civil society about these negotiations.

For her part, Malmostrom spoke of the concerns raised by some Tunisian experts regarding losing an important part of the country’s institutions if the agreement is signed and implemented: “We are aware of the existence of concerns in this regard, so there must be cooperation between the two sides.”

She pointed to the importance of “dialogue with Tunisian institutions and the elements of civil society.”

“These negotiations will be transparent and there is no ulterior agenda behind them. It will benefit Tunisia,” she added.

She also said that the DCFTA will open the EU’s market to Tunisian companies.

On his part, the Tunisian minister said that negotiations will take place through a number of stages and could last for years. “If there is no approximation between the two sides’ laws, the negotiations could be postponed,” he added.

“It is important to prepare analytical studies about the issue and about the differences between the two sides’ laws,” he said, stressing that “if there is anything that could harm Tunisia’s interests, the negotiations will be postponed.”

The EU is Tunisia’s largest trade partner.

According to the EU’s Trade Commissioner, three quarters of Tunisian exports go to EU member states.

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