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Cablegate: Tunisia: Ambassador Highlights Cairo Goals and Trade

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTU #0938/01 3631400
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 291400Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7108
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS TUNIS 000938

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR S/P (BEHRMAN), R (NOOR-ALI), S/SRMC (CHANDLER), EEB, AND NEA/MAG

PLEASE PASS USTR (BURKHEAD), USAID (MCCLOUD), AND SBA (SMITH)
USDOC FOR ITA/MAC/ONE (MASON), ADVOCACY CTR (TABINE), AND CLDP
(TEJTEL AND MCMANUS)
CASABLANCA FOR FCS (KITSON)
NSC STAFF FOR SENIOR DIRECTOR RAMAMURTHY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EINV EAIR TS
SUBJECT: Tunisia: Ambassador Highlights Cairo Goals and Trade
Relations with Commerce Minister

Ref: Tunis 907

Sensitive but unclassified; please handle accordingly.

-------
Summary
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1. (SBU) In a December 24 courtesy call, the Ambassador and Minister
of Commerce and Handicrafts Ridha Ben Mosbah discussed U.S.-Tunisia
trade and investment and USG initiatives following the President's
Cairo speech. While the Minister emphasized his desire for a free
trade agreement (FTA) with the United States, the Ambassador pushed
for progress on the U.S.-Tunisia Trade and Investment Framework
Agreement (TIFA) and on an Open Skies agreement. End summary.

--------------------------------
Entrepreneurship and Franchising
--------------------------------

2. (U) HigQighting the key themes of the President's Cairo speech
in a December 24 courtesy call, the Ambassador explained the goals
of the March 1-2 Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship and
indicated that several Tunisian entrepreneurs would be invited. The
Ambassador also emphasized franchising as an important vehicle for
technology transfer and job creation. He expressed strong support
for recent developments in franchising, such as the August 2009
franchising law (and the implementation decree expected in February
2010) and the December 10-13 Tunis Med Franchise Show (reftel).

3. (U) Minister Ben Mosbah replied that the Government of Tunisia
(GOT) has prioritized entrepreneurship and the creation of small and
medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Its legal framework, he said,
promotes SME creation through entrepreneurship and "spin-off"
operations, and has helped establish 70,000 new SMEs in the last
five years. Still, remarked Ben Mosbah, the GOT and universities
are working to overcome "cultural barriers" and encourage
entrepreneurship among youth.

----------------------
Science and Technology
----------------------

4. (U) The Ambassador previewed the visit of science envoy Dr. Elias
Zerhouni, highlighting the relevance of science and technology
cooperation to trade and investment. The Minister, who knows Dr.
Zerhouni from a previous position, was pleased to learn of the visit
and suggested several "technopoles" and other technology sites to
include in the visit.

-----------------
Hoping for an FTA
-----------------

5. (SBU) Minister Ben Mosbah repeatedly raised his interest in
pursuing an FTA similar to the U.S.-Morocco agreement. Pointing to

GOT progress on issues such as intellectual property and
anti-counterfeiting, he said that he was interested in continuing
talks on the 2002 TIFA but that his ultimate goal was to sign an
FTA. The Ambassador focused on the need to make progress first on
the TIFA and raised the possibility of an Open Skies agreement to
increase trade and investment. He added that the Embassy had
recently (in September) submitted a model text of an Open Skies
agreement to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was awaiting a
response.

--------------------------
Next Step: GOT Road Show?
--------------------------

6. (U) Minister Ben Mosbah described the GOT's "Think Tunisia"
outreach campaign (www.thinktunisia.tn), in which he and other
officials have made presentations at trade shows in Europe to
promote investment in Tunisia. He suggested, and the Ambassador
agreed, that GOT outreach to the United States could help promote
Tunisia's image as a destination for U.S. investment in high-tech
industry and information technology. The Ambassador pledged to
research opportunities (at trade shows, technology fairs, etc.) for
the Minister to plan an outreach road show in the United States.

GRAY

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