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Tunisia: Foreign trade back in touch with growth

Tunisia’s foreign exchanges have recovered their usual growth rate in the first four months of 2010; that this upward trend involves “almost all branches, according to Tunisian  Trade and Handicrafts Minister Ridha Ben Mosbah.”

The minister, meeting the press, added that exports have posted, since early this year, a climbing rate, reaching nearly 16% by late April, compared with only 6% in late January.
This growth involved, in particular, exports of mechanical and electrical sectors (+33.2%), energy (+37.8%), textile and clothing (+4.8%), leather and shoe (+12.7%) and various industries (+10.9%).

Regarding imports, they posted a growth estimated at 30.1%. Imported products are mainly equipment commodities (+33.8%), raw materials (+30%), energy (+66.1%), staple products (+18.3%) and food products (+15%).

he significant volume of imports augurs of a continuous growth of the rate of exports in the future, a recovery of investment and the capacity of resilience of the national economy to external chocks. Concerning estimates, efforts will focus on diversifying markets and trade partners, he pointed out, adding that a special interest will be taken in developing partnership with Sub-Saharan African countries.

The trade department has sought since early this year to prepare to the best for high consumption periods: summer season, tourist season, return of Tunisian community and month of Ramadan (second fortnight of August).

Regarding handicrafts,  stamped carpet-making fell by a 47-per-cent rate, compared with 2000, as a result of the craftsmen’s proneness to sulk this activity which they estimate not profitable enough and as a consequence, also, of the migration of so many among them to industries they see as more interesting.

Concerning jewellery-making, the Minister pointed out thus branch’s dropping competitiveness, and its corollary, the decrease of its contribution to the achievement of the targets of the strategy of the handicrafts  promotion by 2016, notably concerning job creation and boosting exports. The sector’s other indicators cited by the minister include the amount of investments in the handicrafts sector which rose, in 2009, by 18.6 million dinars.

Journalists’ questions revolved around the likely impact of new factors: Greek crisis, rise of dollar, fall of euro and cement crisis on the national economy.

The minister reminded that Tunisia pays its imports in dollars at a rate equal to 40% and in euro at 60%.

He said the rise of the dollar will have a negative impact on the trade balance, particularly regarding the imports of staple products (cereals, vegetal oil, sugar, etc.) and raw materials (oil and steel) which are purchased in dollars.

The fall of this currency will have positive effects on the exports of local products (oil, phosphate and derivatives).

He argued that the fall of the euro will have a positive effect on the imports of equipment and semi-manufactured products from the Euro zone, which is likely to reduce the pressure of foreign inflation, pointing to the possible increase of imports from the European Union if the decrease of this currency continues.
The decrease in the Euro will also impact negatively on the revenues of exports to the Euro zone and on the competitiveness of the exporting companies.

Regarding the cement crisis, the minister announced that the latter is over and that all cement plants of the country have recovered their customary production pace, pointing out that an average of 26 thousand tons of cement will be sold daily in the country.

The demand on cement increased by 12% last April as a result of the investment effort in infrastructure which led to a provisional suspension of exports


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