Libya, Tunisia vow to axe trade barriers
By Houda Trabelsi for Magharebia in Tunis – 17/05/10
Libya and Tunisia must work together to increase bilateral trade and investment, ministers from both countries said last week in Tunis.
Tunisian Development Minister Mohamed Nouri Jouini and Libyan Secretary of the People's General Committee of Finances Abdelhafidh Zelitni co-chaired the May 10th-11th meeting, which focussed on ways to reinforce existing bilateral trade agreements.
Tunisian Trade Minister Reda Ben Mesbah called on both countries to adopt the latest resolutions to develop trade and investment, while searching for additional ways to co-ordinate their economies.
"The Future Horizons Committee…will investigate all means of pushing forward economic, trade, industrial and investment ties, and will "[lay] the foundations for an effective partnership", the minister added.
"Strengthening ties between Tunisia and Libya can only take place by removing the obstacles hindering the 'four freedoms' agreements," said Mohamed Haweij, the secretary of the Libyan General People's Committee of Industry, Economy and Trade.
Encouraging the free movement of capital and fighting smuggling, commercial fraud and manipulation of the trade process will boost bilateral economic ties, Haweij added.
Haweij also called for establishing a Tunisian-Libyan bank with capital of one billion dinars to bring about additional economic integration.
In this vein, the two countries will ease trade restrictions by mutually recognising quality assurance and conformity labels applied to goods made in both countries.
Tunisian-Libyan trade amounted to 2 billion dinars in 2009, a figure which both nations hope will be surpassed in coming years. Tunisia has financed an additional 27 projects in the fields of oil, natural gas, power and infrastructure, amounting to a 265-million-dinar investment in Libya's economy.
A 533-km highway between Sfax and Tripoli is also in development.
Slimen Achehoumi, who heads the Union of Arab Stock Exchanges as well as the Libyan Capital market, said Libya and Tunisia have much progress to make on the road to improved economic relations.
"Bilateral co-operation between Tunisia and Libya is still in its beginnings and below all expectations and ambitions, despite an attempt to conclude an agreement between the two stock exchanges in Libya and Tunisia," he told Magharebia.
Achehoumi emphasised the critical importance of increasing trade.
"What's most important is opening investment gates to investors in both countries, which will be the basis for diversifying investment and creating opportunities for trade," he added.
The meeting follows several recent conferences on Maghreb economic integration, emphasising the importance of infrastructure improvements and the removal of protectionist trade policies.
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