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Cablegate: Tunisian Minister of Industry and Technology On

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTU #0083/01 0331524
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 021524Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7231
INFO RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

UNCLAS TUNIS 000083

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EEB/IFD/OMA, EEB/EPPD, AND NEA/MAG
STATE PASS USTR (BURKHEAD) AND USAID (MCCLOUD)
USDOC FOR ITA/MAC/ONE (MASON), ADVOCACY CTR (TABINE), AND
CLDP (TEJTEL AND MCMANUS)
USDOC PASS USPTO (ADAMS, BROWN, AND MARSHALL)
CASABLANCA FOR FCS (KITSON)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EFIN EINV ETRD TS
SUBJECT: TUNISIAN MINISTER OF INDUSTRY AND TECHNOLOGY ON
COOPERATION WITH THE U.S.

Sensitive but unclassified; please protect accordingly.

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Summary
-------

1. (SBU) On January 28, the Ambassador called on Minister of
Industry and Technology Mohamed Afif Chelbi, the minister
also in charge of energy and small and medium enterprises
(SMEs). Chelbi was enthusiastic about the forthcoming
memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the U.S. Small
Business Administration (SBA) and the Ministry of Industry
and Technology (MOIT), which will provide a platform for
direct contact between Tunisian and American SMEs. The
Ambassador raised civil nuclear energy cooperation and also
the upcoming trade mission to Tunisia, noting that at least
one U.S. company was interested in meeting with the Ministry
to discuss trade and investment. Chelbi and the Ambassador
also discussed U.S. investment in the energy sector. End
summary.

----------------------------------
Private Sector and SME Initiatives
----------------------------------

2. (SBU) Minister Chelbi was particularly excited about
bilateral cooperation on the development of small and medium
businesses. He said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had
approved a draft MOU for cooperation between the U.S. Small
Business Administration, which visited Tunisia in late 2009,
and the Agency for Promotion of Industry (API, the SBA
equivalent in the MOIT). Chelbi said he envisioned
business-to-business contacts between Tunisian and American
SMEs and would like to send an API delegation to the United
States. He said he would like to raise the profile of
Tunisia in the United States, and although the MOIT had
already done a Tunisian "roadshow" on the petroleum sector in
the United States, other Tunisian industries were unknown to
U.S. investors.

-------------------------------
New Cooperation on Solar Energy
-------------------------------

3. (SBU) The Minister noted five U.S. companies were present
in the energy sector in Tunisia, and hoped that number would
increase. He asked about opportunities for bilateral
cooperation in the solar energy field, and referenced the
Tunisia Solar Plan (an ambitious solar energy plan aiming to
reduce electricity consumption by 16 percent by 2016 and
create at least 40 private-public partnerships in the sector
by 2020). The Ambassador extended an invitation to the
Minister to participate in a May 2010 conference on
electricity in the MENA region organized by the U.S. Trade
and Development Agency. This would present an important
opportunity for the Tunisian government to liaise with the
U.S. private and public sector on solar energy.

4. (SBU) In addition, the Ambassador raised the issue of
Baker Hughes, a U.S. oil services company currently investing
in Tunisia. Baker Hughes is seeking to expand the Tunisia
market but is having trouble getting an explosives permit
(required for drilling) because it cannot find the correct
interlocutor within the GOT who can approve such a permit.
The Minister identified the right person within the MOIT who
could assist the company (Note: we have since notified Baker
Hughes of this information and are working with Mokhtar
Hajji, the Ministry's Director of International Cooperation
and External Relations, who was present at the meeting. End
note).

---------------------
U.S. Trade Delegation
---------------------

5. (SBU) The Minister was pleased to hear about a February
15 U.S. Trade Delegation coming to Tunisia as part of the
Department of Commerce-led Executive Trade Mission to Algeria
and Libya. The Ambassador noted at least one company,
Capstone Turbine Corporation, was interested in meeting with
the MOIT as its products fit well with some of the GOT
initiatives on renewable energy. The Minister said he would
gladly assist in arranging such a meeting between MOIT, or

even STEG, the state-owned utility. The Embassy is also
following up with the Ministry to seek a courtesy call by
Raytheon.

-------------------------
Civil Nuclear Cooperation
-------------------------

6. (SBU) The Ambassador also raised the issue of civil
nuclear cooperation. In September 2009, the GOT sent the
Embassy a diplomatic note requesting "study days" to discuss
civil nuclear cooperation. That same month, the Embassy sent
a reply noting our willingness to engage on the issue as we
had in late 2008 when Ambassador Jackie Wolcott, then-Special
Envoy for Nuclear Nonproliferation, visited Tunisia. Chelbi
said he shared the nuclear energy portfolio with the Ministry
of Education, which covers the research and technical
assistance portfolio, and confirmed that the GOT was looking
for partners internationally on this issue. He said the GOT
was studying the proposals, but did not specify if the GOT
was preparing a response to the September diplomatic note.
GRAY

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