Remarks by Assistant Secretary of Commerce Arun M. Kumar at the Tunisia2020 Investment Conference

U.S. Embassy in Tunisia
29-Nov-2016

Mr. President, Ministers,Your Excellencies, and distinguished representatives, thank you for the opportunity to join you today.

As we approach the six year anniversary of Tunisia’s revolution, we must reflect upon the magnitude of the changes we have seen in Tunisia in such a short period of time: two successful, free and fair elections; the consultative drafting of a new national constitution; and peaceful transitions of power between parties and governments. Tunisia has taken the challenging steps to build an accountable, representative, and inclusive democracy, an example to the region and the world of how democratic transitions, while difficult, can succeed through courageous leadership and national consensus.

Not only has Tunisia succeeded in creating a new and responsive political system, but it has also made great strides modernizing and reforming its economy. Over the past several months, we have witnessed the important steps taken to support private sector investments with the passage of the Public-Private Partnership and banking laws and a new investment code. In September, President Obama and Secretaries Pritzker and Kerry highlighted Tunisia at the U.S. African Business Forum because of these meaningful steps to create a business-friendly environment.

The United States is committed not only to highlighting Tunisia’s successes, but to supporting them directly. Since 2011, the United States has provided over $900 million in assistance to support Tunisia’s democratic, security, and economic development. In May of this year, we held the first meeting of the U.S.-Tunisia Joint Economic Commission, focusing on important areas for economic growth including the ICT sector, agriculture, and small and medium enterprises in partnership with both government and private sector representatives. Just this summer, we concluded our third sovereign loan guarantee with Tunisia to enable the borrowing of an additional $500 million at affordable rates, providing access to approximately $1.5 billion in capital since 2011. The Tunisia America Enterprise Fund will reach a capitalization of $80 million this year to directly support the growth of small and medium enterprises across Tunisia.

Altogether, U.S. assistance has enabled the creation of more than 10,000 jobs for the Tunisian people. On the regulatory side, our programs are assisting the Tunisian government with more transparent and accountable financial management and with streamlining business regulations to allow Tunisians themselves to create a more innovative, vigorous economy.

The United States is and will remain committed to our cooperation designed to strengthen Tunisia’s economy, but our assistance, and that of all of our foreign government partners here today, is but one piece of the puzzle. We are encouraged by the presence here today of so many private sector representatives from around the world. After all, we all know that the private sector must be the true driver of lasting economic growth in Tunisia.

Many U.S. businesses have already recognized the opportunity present in Tunisia, with its stable, democratic government, a highly educated workforce, and easy access to Europe and other regional trade hubs. The U.S. firms operating in Tunisia, many of whom are here today, include financial institutions, tech companies, manufacturers, and food outlets. The Government of Tunisia has shown its commitment to welcoming private business through its continued steps for reforms and engagement, and we have no doubt more U.S. firms will take advantage of the opportunity to do business here in Tunisia in the future.

We are grateful for the opportunity to join you today to continue highlighting Tunisia’s economic potential and strengthen both public and private partnerships. The United States is a friend and a partner of Tunisia, and we will continue to offer our support. Thank you.

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