Turkey’s Ambassador to Tunisia, Ömer Faruk Doğan said his country is ready to invest in Tunisia in a win-win approach.
On the other hand, he asserted that Tunisia must choose its development model, review its fundamentals, increase production and strengthen liberalization and privatization, while introducing the public-private partnership system.
The Tunisian authorities had complained of the imbalance in trade between the two countries, and Turkey had promised to correct it. How things stand now?
Relations between Tunisia and Turkey have a long history. They began already in 1954, to deepen and become multidimensional in 1956 with the birth of the independent Republic.
The economic and trade aspect has accelerated greatly, especially with the signing of a free trade agreement in 2004, providing for a gradual reduction in tariffs until 2014, when they completely disappeared. It should be noted that Turkey has been part of a customs union since 1996.
Since 2014, Turkish industrial products have their own access rights to the Tunisian market, with 0 tax.
The relations between the two countries have consolidated in the aftermath, especially as Tunisian entrepreneurs began to realize that there are huge opportunities.
Turkey is part of a customs union, and the products originating in the country always have their own rights of access to the member countries of the European Union.
The Tunisian operators, in view of this advantage, have begun to change their destination and to move towards Turkey, which has the same position as a member country of the European Union.
This is why Tunisians have started to import from our country, especially as prices are very advantageous and quality is high.
However Mr. Ambassador, in spite of the advantages offered by this agreement, there has been an enormous imbalance in these exchanges?
It is clear that there has been some imbalance in trade between Turkey and Tunisia for a number of reasons.
Since 2011, Tunisia has not, unfortunately, kept the same level of production; it has fallen sharply because of a disturbed social climate, marked by the resurgence of social movements and sit-in.
As a result, Turkey was unable to import phosphate from Tunisia, since a production of 8 million tons was expected in 2016, with the country ending up with 2.5 million tons.
This has accentuated the trade imbalance between the two countries, and especially Turkey, a country that has high phosphate requirements and has been forced to move to other markets to satisfy them.
In addition, Turkey could not import dates or automobiles.
All this has caused an imbalance, which has not also pleased Turkey. This forced us to hold an economic council meeting on July 21 to better address this issue.
Turkey also has the will to balance its trade with Tunisia. How?
We have chosen to focus on three main sectors, starting with the olive oil sector. At this level, Turkey has promised to set up a certain quota for Tunisia, which will be between 5 and 10 thousand tons for the first phase.
The second sector will be the textile, considered as the promoter of the economy, creating a lot of hires.
At this level, meetings have been held with Turkish professionals to encourage them to invest in Tunisia.
Phosphate is the last sector and Turkey is trying to find the means to create a fertilizer plant so that Tunisia becomes an exporting country of this product. This would probably increase the value added of Tunisian products.
In any case, the Tunisian market must go up in scale to reduce the imbalance in trade between the two countries.
This is important, mainly to convince more the Turkish importer, who has turned away from Tunisia.
The rebalancing of trade will certainly take time. Do you have any idea about the deadlines?
In the concept of free trade, the authorities cannot control the demand of the internal market. This means that the Turkish government cannot force the private sector to go in one direction, and it is the same for the Tunisian side.
Tunisia must encourage foreign investment and draw profit from Turkey, which injected more than $ 5.5 billion into Egypt, $ 2.5 billion into Algeria and $ 3 billion into Kenya and Ethiopia.
Have you developed a strategy to overcome failures?
The Tunisian authorities must facilitate procedures and access for investors. Based on this observation, they are called upon to put in place regulations that will be in full harmony with the new investment law.
Institutions and ministers must adapt to this new regulatory text.
This approach is strategic in that more than 180 development projects were launched on the holding of the “Tunisia 2020”, but their realization still depends on the adaptation to the new investment law.
Is there a Turkish willingness to invest more in Tunisia?
Simple Example: we are an agricultural country and we import $ 600 million annually of fertilizer and phosphate. What is preventing Tunisia from meeting our needs, knowing that it has enormous potential?
If the conditions become more favorable, nothing will prevent the Turkish investor from betting on Tunisia and importing the products he needs.
Another thing: Tunisia can become a base of air cargo for all Africa. The achievement of this goal is quite possible for the country, which has good relations with the 54 African countries.
This would be facilitated by the transformation of all Tunisia into a free trade area. This would allow for a real logistical basis.
It is important especially that there is a strong Western movement to Africa and an e-commerce that develops thanks to air cargo.
In Africa, 1.2 billion people feed on 85% of imports and Tunisia that inspired the African civilization may benefit from this advantage.
Your messages for the Tunisian authorities so that our country can emerge from the economic impasse?
It is simple, it is more than ever useful to liberalize the economy and introduce the conditions of free competition.
Liberalize institutions also to increase competition, competence and also quality, which would certainly lower production costs and change exports.
There is also need to find ways to accelerate the economy of Tunisia, considered the only stable one on the Maghreb.
And to do this, Tunisia must benefit from these advantages, protect its uniqueness, strengthen stability and solidarity, and return immediately to production, while introducing new policies to encourage production for export.
These steps will certainly improve Tunisia’s position internationally and make it an exporting as well as an importing country.
A word about the projects and initiatives of your country to help Tunisia overcome the post-revolutionary economic difficulties
We have experienced this in the past. We have gone through the same stages and there has been great debate with the World Bank, which has limited the activities of our country. Now Turkey is ranked 6th world economy.
To achieve this, the country’s fundamentals must be reviewed, production increased, liberalization and privatization strengthened and the public-private partnership system introduced.
Tunisia still needs to encourage and stimulate its diaspora estimated at more than 2 million people.
And what about Turkey’s support?
We have exchanged experiences and are ready to invest in a win-win approach, knowing that one-third of Tunisian citizens are frightened by this approach.
On the basis of all this, Tunisia must choose its model of development and position itself well in relation to its multiple partners