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Texts proposed by the EU for a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with Tunisia

Tunisia | Brussels, 29 April 2016

The European Union and Tunisia are jointly making public the initial texts of the future Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) as proposed by the European Union (EU) and presented to Tunisian experts during the preliminary discussions in Tunis in October 2015 and during the first round of negotiations from 18 to 21 April 2016.

Egalement en français

Texts in the following 11 areas are made available to the public. The texts are only French, because it is the language of the negotiations. Texts will be translated at the end of the negotiations and after lawyers will have checked them. Each of them is accompanied by an explanatory note which aims to make them easier to understand:

More information on the DCFTA

  - The context of these negotiations

The conclusion of a DCFTA is one of the objectives of the privileged partnership between the EU and Tunisia agreed on 19 November 2012, which sets the main priorities for strengthening bilateral relations in the coming years.

The EU and Tunisia have already established a free trade area following the conclusion of the Association Agreement in 1995. Since 1995, bilateral trade has more than doubled, Tunisia’s exports (notably in textiles and the mechanical sector) to the EU have almost tripled and European direct foreign investment in Tunisia has expanded rapidly. However, the scope of the agreement is limited to the progressive abolition of customs duties on manufactured goods and some concessions for trade in agricultural products. It is based on an asymmetric and gradual basis for Tunisia — given that the EU has opened up its market for the Tunisian imports more quickly and to a greater extent that Tunisia has done for trade in the opposite direction.

In their privileged partnership and in the action plan for its implementation, Tunisia and the European Union have jointly agreed to broaden and deepen the current free trade area with the aim of promoting a better integration of Tunisia’s economy into the European Economic Area as driver for growth on both sides. The DCFTA was identified as the cornerstone for achieving this common goal.

Before the formal launch of the negotiations, Tunisia and the European Union held an informal dialogue on the future DCFTA. These exploratory discussions provided information on the scope of the negotiations and their level of ambition, sensitive areas and areas where further accompanying measures should be developed to ensure proper implementation of the DCFTA.

   - The objective of the DCFTA

The objective of the DCFTA is a better integration of Tunisia’s economy into the European Economic Area. The DCFTA aims to further develop bilateral trade and investment by extending the provisions of the Association Agreement to areas that are excluded today, among other issues, trade in services; part of agriculture; investment and trade facilitation. It is also a question of deepening relations between Tunisia and the European Union on the basis of a regulatory approximation and a reduction of non-tariff barriers, which hamper the development of trade and investment.

General approach

Both parties should follow the principles of asymmetry and progressiveness of market opening for Tunisia. Also the trade liberalisation and regulatory approximation aimed at by the DCFTA will adapt to the priorities chosen by Tunisia and will go hand in hand with the ongoing reforms by taking into account specific characteristics of Tunisian economy and socio-economic development. In this way, the Tunisian economy has the time and support necessary to benefit from the integration into the European Economic Area.

  - The initial texts

The initial texts of negotiations have been proposed by the EU to Tunisia as a first basis for discussion. They express the initial position of the EU and will be reviewed throughout the negotiations. Tunisia is entitled to submit an alternative proposal, including partial, to the European Union.

  - The timing of the negotiations

There is no fixed deadline or timetable for negotiations, which will take time and will adapt to the pace and needs of both sides. The wish of both partners is advancing steadily but realistically allowing sufficient time for both sides. Then, once the DCFTA signed, it will have to be approved according to the respective internal procedures.

  - Accompaniment of the negotiations

Since the signature of the Association Agreement, the EU has supported Tunisia in the development of its economy, and the strengthening and modernisation of the productive units under the MEDA programme (1995 till 2006) and the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument from 2007 onwards.

The European Union stands ready to support negotiations and implementation of the future DCFTA by adequate and important accompanying measures, within the limits of available funds. A first project to support the start of the DCFTA negotiations already started in January 2016. The European Union will also support Tunisia in upgrading sensitive sectors of its economy according to the priorities and needs identified by Tunisia.

   - Role for civil society

The European Union and Tunisia shall promote a high level of transparency and dialogue with civil society, both European and Tunisian. The publication of the initial negotiating texts proposed by the European Union underlines that both parties are receptive to the calls of the civil society on both sides to be involved in the process of negotiations. They are also ready to keep an open and inclusive dialogue with representatives of civil the society and other stakeholders throughout the negotiation process.

More on the EU-Tunisia trade negotiations