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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/exporting-to-tunisia/doing-business-in-tunisia-tunisia-trade-and-export-guide
1. Tunisia export overview
Tunisia is supported by the International Financial Institutions (IFI) to encourage economic growth.
Contact a Department for International Trade (DIT) Tunisia export adviser for a free consultation if you are interested in exporting to Tunisia.
Benefits for UK businesses exporting to Tunisia:
- no customs duties on European Union (EU) manufactured products
- only a 3 hour flight from London
- trade agreements make Tunisia a hub for onward trade to local countries
- support from IFI to help economic reforms in Tunisia
2. Challenges doing business In Tunisia
There are some unique challenges for UK companies when doing business in Tunisia. These include:
- Tunisia’s World Bank ease of doing business rank has lowered over past years
- some corruption, however, scores relatively well compared to many African countries
- it takes between 13 and 17 days to export or import a container
- declining foreign investments (Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and portfolio investment)
- less than 0.2% of Tunisian enterprises employ more than 200 people
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3. Growth potential
2013 saw a 2.6% growth rate, down from 3.7% in 2012. Growth is predicted to accelerate in 2015.
There are on-going reforms promising new innovative economic growth plans, such as Public Private Partnerships (PPP).
In order for Tunisia’s economy to return to durable growth, there are plans to rationalise public spending and instigate effective oversight of:
- the financial sector
- the labour market
3.1 Trade agreements
In July 1995, Tunisia was the first Mediterranean country to sign an Association Agreement with the EU.
Tunisia also has trade agreements with:
4. UK and Tunisia trade
UK Exports to Tunisia increased by 1% in 2013 to reach £160 million.
The UK’s largest exports of goods to Tunisia are:
- electrical machinery
- medicinal and pharmaceutical products
- power generating and industrial machinery
5. Opportunities for UK businesses in Tunisia
DIT provides free international export sales leads from its worldwide network. Search for export opportunities.
Identify opportunities to supply products and services to the international aid agencies. Contact DIT’s Aid Funded Business Service for more information.
5.1 Professional services
The financial sector remains one of the main handicaps to the recovery of the Tunisian economy. A major reform programme has been started to address its vulnerabilities. The sector is fragmented and strongly dominated by state-owned banks (nearly 36% of total assets). The sector remains inefficient despite the density of the network and relatively high penetration of banking services.
The Lord Mayor of the City of London visited Tunisia in 2014. The visit revealed a number of areas on which cooperation between Tunisia and the UK can develop.
There are many opportunities for UK expertise, which will be needed to assist in reforming the banking sector and developing the capital market amongst other areas.
Contact the DIT team in Tunisia for more information on the professional sector.
The UK is Tunisia’s leading partner in the energy sector. British Gas remains Tunisian’s largest single foreign investor with USD 4 billion invested to date. This position will be reinforced with the potential entry of Shell, Enquest and Nur Energy, who all have contracts awaiting approval by the Tunisian authorities.
Contact the DIT team in Tunisia for more information on the energy sector.
5.3 Information Communications Technology (ICT)
The World Bank has reported that substantial progress has been made in the ICT sector recently. This is due to the introduction of a regulatory framework to allow access to assets held by utilities firms.
Despite this advance, several challenges still remain. ICT services remain expensive creating an obstacle for foreign direct investment. Competition in the sector remains limited and several reforms have been recommended to open up this sector. These would provide many new opportunities for UK businesses in this sector.
Contact the DIT team in Tunisia for more information on the ICT sector.
Tertiary education is well developed in Tunisia. OECD reported that Tunisia has the world’s ninth highest rate of private tutoring, with participation rates of up to 70%. Interest from students in Libya and sub-Saharan African countries to study in Tunisia is increasing. This makes Tunisia a serious contender to becoming the continent leader in the education sector.
This is attracting some investment interest from the UK. This interest and opportunities will increase if the Tunisian government lifts restrictions on foreign investment in the sector.
Contact the DIT team in Tunisia for more information on the Education sector.
6. Start-up considerations
It is advised to appoint a local representative when trading in Tunisia.
You can check the potential market interest for your products in Tunisia with the Tunisian national statistics institute.
When investing, we recommend that you seek the advice of a Tunisian lawyer. Investment is free in most sectors but there are still limitations on certain sectors, such as education. The DIT team in Tunisia can provide you with a list of English speaking lawyers.
7. Legal considerations
You should seek professional advice before doing business in Tunisia.
Contact the DIT team in Tunisia for more information about the legal considerations for doing business in Tunisia.
7.1 Intellectual Property (IP)
Trademarks, designs, patents and copyright are the principal forms of IP protection available to companies and individuals.
8. Tax and customs considerations
You can check the customs duties for your products with the Tunisian customs board.
In 2008 Tunisia liberalised the trade of industrial goods with Europe due to the Association Agreement. Most EU manufactured goods can be imported in Tunisia without paying any customs duties.
To qualify for the EU preferential rates an EUR 1 certificate is needed.
Health certificates are required for some foodstuffs and for plants and live animals. Packing lists and bills of lading are required – there are no special regulations on the form these should take.
You can find more about import tariffs in the Market Access Database (MADB).
9. Entry requirements
You do not need a visa to enter Tunisia, provided your stay is for less than three months.
9.1 Travel advice
If you’re travelling to Tunisia for business, check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice page beforehand.
Contact the DIT team in Tunisia for more information and advice on opportunities for doing business in Tunisia.