This section « Frequently asked questions » is a section that wants to be dynamic, interactive, evolving in accordance with the advance of the DCFTA negotiations as well as the reactions of all stakeholders. Thus, understandably, it will expand to take into account all of your queries and reactions.
1- What is DCFTA ?
The French acronym «DCFTA» signifies «Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement». It is an EU-Tunisia agreement project to enlarge and consolidate their economic cooperation. The DCFTA concretizes a major objective of Privileged Partnership obtained by Tunisia in November 2012 and constitutes an INSTRUMENT for integrating the Tunisian economy within the EU domestic market. So, strictly speaking, this is not a mere new trade agreement, but rather a deeper integration of the Tunisian economy within the Euro-Mediterranean economic space_ the EU domestic market. This better integration of the Tunisian economy within the European economic space will be carried out through : a progressive harmonizion of the legal, economic and commercial regulations and evironment, a reducation the non-tariff obstacles, a simplification and facilitation of the customs procedures, an improvement of the access conditions of the products and services to both markets. More specifically, this agreement project aims at extending the free trade zone for the manufactured industrial products implemented by the 1995 Agreement of Association to include other sectors. In fact, the 1995 Agreement of association did not anticipate the elimination of the customs tariffs only for industrial products.
2- What does DCFTA represent for Tunisia ?
The DCFTA agreement falls in line within the reform strategy tackled by Tunisia to establish a progressive integration of the country within its regional, Maghreb, Arabic, Euro-Mediterranean and international context. For Tunisia, the DCFTA agreement will represent a real «accelerator» of the reforms decided and planned in all sovereignty.
The DCFTA concretizes a major objective of Privileged Partnership obtained by Tunisia with the EU in November 2012 and constitutes an INSTRUMENT of integration of the Tunisian economy within the domestic market of the European Union.
3- What are the objectives of the DCFTA agreement ?
The project of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) between Tunisia and the European Union aims at a better integration of the Tunisian economy within the European economic space by : Progressively harmonizing the regulations of the legal, economic and commercial environment Reducing the non-tariff obstacles Simplifying and facilitating the customs procedures Improving the access conditions of the products and services to the respective markets.
4- What are the fields covered by the DCFTA agreement ?
The DCFTA agreement is going to create a framework which will spread, widen and facilitate in progressive manner the cooperation and reciprocal exchanges in the following fields :
- Trade services.
- Investment provision and protection.
- Trade of agricultural produces, processed agricultural products and the fishing products.
- Public markets
- The phyto-sanitary and the sanitary measures
- Transparency of regulations
- The technical obstacles to trade l
- The intellectual property
- The compensatory and anti-dumping measures
- The sustainable development
- And the aspects linked to the trade of energy.
The agreement, once finalized, will work towards the harmonisation of the regulations of the legal, economic and commercial environment between Tunisia and the EU.
5- What would the benefits for Tunisia be once DCFTA is finalised ?
In addition to striking a trade agreement with the EU, the DCFTA agreement falls within the national reform strategy tackled by Tunisia to establish a progressive integration of the country within its regional, Maghreb, Arab, Euro-Mediterranean and international context. For the country, the DCFTA agreement will represent a real « accelerator » of reforms decided and planned in all sovereignty. If the DCFTA were finalized, its benefits for Tunisia will be the following :
- The Tunisian products will access, in time, more easily a 500 million consumer European market
- The investment conditions and climate of affairs will be improved thanks to a more predictable regulatory framework closer to that of the EU
- The progressive adaptation of the Tunisian economy to the European norms would also contribute to increasing the quality of the Tunisian products and services. This will equally be beneficial to the Tunisian consumers and will improve the Tunisian products and services competitiveness to access other markets.
These benefits will be possible by respecting the international social and environmental norms.
6- Who negotiates the DCFTA agreement for Tunisia ?
To negotiate this agreement project, a multi-sectorial national commission specially devoted to the DCFTA project was created under the umbrella of the Presidency of the Government. It is working, first and foremost to identify and defend Tunisia interests and priorities in reciprocal opening and regulatory approximation. It is also commissioned to evaluate, assess and anticipate the impacts of the new agreement on the relevant sectors, specially the most sensitive ones, and to consult with the economic actors and the national civil society organizations.
7- When have we started talking about DCFTA and when did the negotiations start ?
The extension of the liberalization of exchanges with the EU was, in fact, planned since the 1995 Agreement of Association. Then, there was the adhesion of Tunisia to the process of Barcelona, the Euro Mediterranean regional partnership and the new Union for the Mediterranean (UpM) which also planned for deepening the relations. Lastly, the action plan that followed the access of Tunisia to the status of Privileged Partner in 2012 marked a new stage in the integration of Tunisia in the euro-Mediterranean economic space. The official announcement of the launching of the negotiations on the DCFTA was made in Tunis on the occasion of the visit of Mrs Cecilia Malmström, the European Commissioner to Trade, in October 2015. An experts meeting was held on the margins of this visit. The first round of a «deep common reading» of the EU propositions was planned to take place on the week of 18 April 2016 in Tunis.
8- Will the DCFTA agreement impose reforms on Tunisia ?
The DCFTA agreement should be dynamic and evolving. It will take into account the Tunisian level of development and will follow the paste of its reform and modernization efforts. Many reforms stipulated by the DCFTA agreement are either already planned or in progress right now in Tunisia. The regulatory approximation work has, in fact, begun in numerous areas covered by the future DCFTA agreement, such as public markets, the competition policy, the trade technical obstacles, investments or still the right to intellectual property.
The DCFTA agreement should enable Tunisia accelerate these reforms.
9- Will the DCFTA agreement respect Tunisia sovereignty in making its economic choices ?
The new agreement will entirely respect the Tunisian sovereignty in selecting its development model as well as in deciding its priorities. The big principles guiding the DCFTA negociations are clearly :
- The total respect of Tunisia sovereignty in making its economic choices and in setting its priorities
- An « asymmetric » approach in favor of Tunisia
- Respect of the negotiated sectors different levels of development as well as their degree of competitiveness
- Delimitation of the appropriate transition periods
- Possibility of excluding the sensitive products and activities or of partially liberalizing them (either in volume, or in relation with the seasons)
- A progressive and supple evolution of the agreement Decision to engage the economic actors and the civil society
- Communication of the negotiations object and calendar in total transparency.
The European Union expressed its disposition to adapt its propositions to Tunisia’s freely chosen agenda of economic reforms and priorities.
10- Is there a calendar imposed on the DCFTA negotiations ?
No calendar is imposed on the DCFTA negotiations. The negotiations will take all the necessary time and will adapt to the rhythms and the needs of the two parties. Both partners, however, hope to go forward at an unabated, but comfortable rhythm for Tunisia. Once the DCFTA agreement is signed and ratified, its implementation will progressively develop over a then-negotiated tcalendar.
11- Who should ratify the DCFTA agreement once finalized ?
Once the negotiations are finished, Tunisia and the European Union whould have to proceed to the ratifications stipulated by their respective constitutions.
On the Tunisian side, it is the Assembly of the Representatives of the People that ratifies this type of agreements.
For the European Union, the final text will be presented for ratification to its two legislative authorities, namely the European Parliament and the Council.
12- Will there be any supporting measures of the DCFTA agreement similar to those made available at the 1995 agreement ?
This agreement will allow, among others, the sensitive or fragile sectors of the Tunisian economy to benefit from the accompaniment and upgrading measures. The implementation of the DCFTA agreement will be carried out in progressive and evolving manner according to a calendar freely chosen by the Tunisian party.
13- Is the Tunisian Civil society engaged in the process of negotiations ?
Besides the consultation of the main Tunisian national organizations such as UTICA, UGTT, UTAP, or the ODC, the Tunisian Civil Society organizations engagement in the DCFTA agreement preparation and negotiation processes is of utmost importance. Besides, many meetings with the representatives of the Tunisian Civil Society organizations have already taken place throughout the preparatory process. Other meetings and consultation workshops are planned. This website is one of the tools to reach and communicate with the civil society organizations www.aleca.tn. The civil society could also participate in the two consulting committees and the sectorial groups.
14- What is the importance of the trade exchanges between Tunisia and the European Union ?
The European Union is Tunisia first trade partner. In fact, 63.4% of the Tunisian trade exchanges is done with the EU.
- In 2015, Tunisia exported 74.5% of its total exports to the EU and made 55.7% of its imports from the EU.
- 78.1% of the Tunisian EXPORTS towards the EU were made to France, Italy and Germany. They amount to 58.2% of the total of the Tunisian exports.
- In 2015, the Tunisian EXPORTS decreased slightly by 2.5% compared to 2014 and the imports from the European Union declined slightly by 0.7%.
- The approximate total amount of the commercial exchanges with the EU in 2015 is evaluated to 19.5 billion Euros (nearly 42.7 billion TND).
In the 2016 first term, the Tunisian exports towards Europe represented 73.9% of the total exports (Source: Tunisian Ministry of Commerce). Equally, Europe is the first foreign investor in the country with more than 3000 comapnies, generating more than 315000 jobs. Direct foreign investments (IDE) represent 49% of the total of FDI (Source: National Institute of Statistics).
15- When does the first agreement of free trade between Tunisia and the EU take place?
The political and economic links between Tunisia and the European Union are very ancient. In fact, the first agreement of commercial cooperation dates back to 1969. Tunisia was the first country on the South shore to have signed with the European Union an Agreement Association in July 1995, entry in force in 1998.
This agreement established a zone of free trade and hence, the elimination of customs tariffs, but uniquely for the commerce of manufactured industrial products.
The Tunisian industrial products, therefore, are exported towards the EU at a zero customs study (and reciprocally). Let’s underline that the application of the tariff dismantling was spread over 12 years (1995-2008) and that the Tunisian companies and factories benefited from accompaniment and upgrading measures within the MEDA program (1995-2006) and within the European Instrument of Neighborhood and of Partnership (starting from 2007). These accompaniment measures covered both the material level (equipment) and immaterial one (training and software). Nearly 3500 Tunisian companies benefited from these measures in order to improve the quality of their production and thus their competitivity compared with the European companies.
The 1995 Association Agreement has always been the legal partnership framework in the political, economic, social, scientific and cultural domains. Tunisia has since then obtained the privileged partner status of in November 2012.
16- Are there any review studies on the impact of the 1995 Association Agreement with the EU or still on the prospective impact of the DCFTA agreement on the Tunisian Economy ?
The Tunisian Government, on several requests of the civil society, has launched the preparation of the terms of reference for a retrospective assessment study of the impact of the 1995 Association Agreement.
In prospective manner, two studies of sector impact of the DCFTA on agriculture and services are at present carried out, respectively by the Tunisian experts of the ESCWA (Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia of the UNO to which Tunisia adhered in 2012) and the Tunisian Institute of Quantitative and Economic Competitiveness.
Likewise, the terms of reference of a study analysing DCFTA agreement impact on different sectors are being prepared. A deep reflection on the optimum assessment tools and methods of the prospective impact of the DCFTA agreement on the Tunisian economy on the economic, social and environmental levels, is engaged.
On April, 4th, a workshop enttiled « DCFTA : Which thematic and sector stakes and challenges for the Tunisian economy » was organised in Tunis gathering the Tunisian experts and academics. This workshop was jointly organized by the ITC and the Presidency of the Government.