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Project Case Study

Study to promote asymmetric trade between Tunisia and the EU

Examining the potential to boost the Tunisian economy by improving exporters' access to EU markets

Tunisia is regularly cited as the main success story of the Arab Spring. Since the fall of Ben Ali Tunisia has seen successive peaceful transfers of power. But despite this success challenges in the economy remain.

In 2016 disquiet with economic performance led to the ousting of the Prime Minister. With growth below 1% and unemployment high, Tunisians rightly are concerned about the state of the economy.

Project info

Tunisia: Government Reform Facility


  • 2016


Sitting on the southern border of the EU, Tunisia’s trade relationship with its northern partner represents a key driver of growth. As part of the international response to support Tunisia, the EU has been taking steps to bolster the Tunisian economy. In January 2016 the European Parliament approved an increase in Tunisia’s duty free annual quota of olive oil. This measure was explicitly described as a method of supporting Tunisia in the wake of the 2015 terrorist attacks, and was limited to just two years.

In early 2016 Adam Smith International conducted a study to support thinking on what further ad hoc asymmetric deals of this kind could prove feasible and of most value for Tunisia.

Key recommendations

  • The EU consider immediate reductions in trade barriers facing Tunisian summer fruit exporters in order to mitigate the damage done to the industry by the decline of the Tunisian tourist industry and the insecurity in Libya (previously Tunisia’s biggest export market for summer fruits).
  • The EU considers deepening the olive oil deal through removal of restrictions which undermine the ability of Tunisian olive oil producers to get a good deal in EU markets.
  • The EU re-examine Rules of Origin for Tunisian clothing exports to the EU, which currently make it hard for Tunisia to compete in the European market against some other exporting countries in the MENA region.

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