Frequently Asked Questions

Are US firms interested in investing in Tunisia?

US firms are mostly interested in gaining access to large domestic or regional markets. From that angle, Tunisia presents a strategic location to access not only the Tunisian market, which is relatively small from an American perspective, but also the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries, Europe, and Africa

Is the US government supporting US firms?

The US government has traditionally supported US firms investments in Egypt and Jordan, but since the Arab revolution, the government has widened its support to investment in Tunisia, the first Arab country moving toward a democratic society. Supporting the success of the transition to democracy in Tunisia is considered as the best incentive for other Arab countries to follow its example. American firms seeking to invest in Tunisia and export to Tunisia can receive insurance and financing for their business through U.S. Government agencies, including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Export-Import Bank.

What Tunisian industry would mostly benefit from US investing?

The best prospects for foreigners interested in the Tunisian market are in high technology, professional services, solar energy, agribusiness, food processing, medical care and equipment, and the environmental and tourism sectors. The Tunisian economy is largely export-oriented. Manufacturing industries are an important source of export revenues, primarily consisting of petroleum, mining (particularly phosphates), textiles, footwear, food processing, and electrical and mechanical manufactures. The Government of Tunisia, working with the European Commission and other partners, has implemented several programs to upgrade the capacity of key industrial sectors to remain competitive while the country gradually opens to trade with Europe and other regions. Tourism is also a major source of foreign currency revenue. In 2009, 6.9 million tourists visited Tunisia, hailing largely from Europe and North Africa. While the influx of tourists represents a boon to the economy, Tunisia's large diaspora (about 1 million) also makes a positive and significant contribution. In 2009, remittances from abroad reached 2.652 billion dinars (approximately $1.965 billion), or roughly 4.51% of Tunisia’s GDP and 7.25 % of the country’s foreign currency earnings ( U.S. $9.583 billion). Tunisia has a relatively well-developed infrastructure that includes six commercial seaports and seven international airports. Eight Arab and foreign groups were shortlisted for the construction, financing, and exploitation of a deep water port project at Enfidha (approximately 100 miles south of Tunis).

Is there a Free Trade Agreement between Tunisia and the US?

The United States and Tunisia signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in October 2002 and follow-up TIFA Council meetings were held in October 2003, June 2005, and March 2008. Tunisia is committed to trade openness and to tap into the world economy to benefit from large and dynamic export markets:

  • Tunisia is a founding member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is publicly committed to a free trade regime and export-led growth.
  • Tunisia signed an Association Agreement with the European Union (EU), which went into effect on January 1, 2008. The agreement eliminates customs tariffs and other trade barriers on manufactured goods, and provides for the establishment of an EU-Tunisia free trade area in goods; trade negotiations in in agriculture and services are ongoing.
  • In 2004, Tunisia signed the framework agreement for a multilateral trade agreement with Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco, known as the Agadir Agreement. The Agadir Agreement creates a potential market of over 100 million people across North Africa and into the Middle East.

In August 2010, the Government of Tunisia passed a law opening the Tunisian economy to foreign franchises in the sectors of retail/distribution, tourism, automotives, and training. Tunisia must approve franchising in other sectors, such as food service and real estate, on a case-by-case basis.
The Government of Tunisia is also beginning to take a more proactive stance on intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement and education. Tunisia's recent intellectual property rights law is designed to meet WTO TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property) minimum standards and there is ongoing collaboration between the United States and Tunisian governments to promote public awareness of these rights.

How can I protect myself against TND currency risks?

OPIC will identify and encourage private businesses, especially U.S. businesses, to invest in the region by providing direct loans, guarantees and political risk insurance. OPIC is currently providing nearly $2.6 billion in support to projects in Middle Eastern and North African countries. OPIC’s financial support will include:

  • Direct loans, guarantees and political risk insurance for investors, as well as financing support for private equity investment funds;
  • Prioritization of investment in SMEs, infrastructure (especially the promotion of renewable resources) and other key sectors;
  • Expansion of OPIC’s existing risk insurance product, which protects investors from losses sustained due to currency inconvertibility, expropriation, breach of contract, as well as political violence including terrorism, to specifically protect US limited partner investments in private equity funds investing throughout the MENA region;
  • ‘Fast-track’ approval for OPIC-supported projects to ensure rapid deployment of capital, while maintaining OPIC investment policy standards concerning the environment and worker and human rights;
  • Development of OPIC partnerships with banks, investment funds, diaspora entrepreneurs, and others interested in investing in projects which promote regional stability.
For more information, check http://mepi.state.gov/mepi/english-mepi/funding-opportunities/apply-for-a-grant/open-funding-opportunities.html

How is the political and security situation?

A successful transition to democracy after long years of an autocratic regime is a heavy and difficult task. Today, order has been re-established in Tunisia, and normal activities are resuming. Social challenges remain, as people want justice, better jobs, higher salaries now, but that is expected and these expectations are being managed. The economy needs to be stabilized so that elections on Oct 23, 2011 can be held in a fair and neutral ground.

Tunisia is a country with a strong tradition of hospitality and openness. The business climate is expected to become stronger in the medium term, and the country is well positioned to become a hub for expansion into the region. Companies that take advantage of early opportunities offered by the new democratic reforms under way, will have an edge over their competitors.