Zied Ladhari, Tunisian Minister of Industry, on building upon older relationships and developing new ones: Interview

What is the relationship between Tunisia and Algeria, specifically with respect to industry?

ZIED LADHARI: Tunisians attach a lot of importance to the relationship with Algeria. Our histories since independence share many aspects. With respect to the economic aspect today, we hope to transform our historic and cultural ties into increasingly dynamic relations with Algeria and to use them to create real strategic partnerships. Currently, we observe that our economic relations do not reach our expectations, and we believe that there is a lot of room to advance in mutually beneficial ways. Recently the Tunisian head of government made his first visit to Algeria. During this visit, it was mentioned that it is important to build industrial partnerships between the two countries. There are legal instruments that help to facilitate trade between the two countries. Though the framework for free trade between us exists, there are some elements that have not been fully applied. This is due to the fact that sometimes there is an impression that the exchanges between the two countries have a purely commercial character, while the real hope is to truly boost industrial collaboration through co-production and investment.

How can Tunisia and Algeria work together to collaborate in strategic areas and industries?

LADHARI: There are still several key elements to define. Nevertheless, there is a real willingness to formalise and develop deeper economic relations between the two countries. In light of the current situation across the region, collaboration between Tunisia and Algeria is more important than ever before.

There are clear areas for collaboration however, and there are important synergies. Co-production is a key area for collaboration. A clear area is in natural resources such as energy and fuel, which are resources that Algeria possesses and that we could benefit from.

With respect to industry, there are ways to collaborate in order to help boost the burgeoning Algerian auto industry. We see that Tunisia has a growing network of subcontractors making automobile parts, while in parallel Algeria is attracting automobile manufacturers to make investments in factories. These elements are complementary, and access to parts via Tunisian manufacturers could help boost the level of value added in the Maghreb, and the Algerian automobile factories will help boost volumes for Tunisian parts manufactures. There are similar dynamics in other sectors, such as the production of white goods and electronics.

There are many things that we can do together, notably when we look at the regions along our borders that share a great potential. Today, Tunisia possesses significant know-how in agro-industry. There are also areas to collaborate in tourism, for instance. This is an area that the Algerians are looking to develop and where the Tunisians possess a deep and rich experience.

When we look at exports, notably towards sub-Saharan Africa, there are significant ways in which Algeria and Tunisia can collaborate. Sub-Saharan Africa represents a huge source of economic demand, and the best way to approach that is through working together. To truly be successful on the sub-Saharan market, there needs to be a critical mass. The collaboration between Algeria and Tunisia is a clear foundational factor to attain that critical mass.

What is needed to further boost the value of Algerian and Tunisian products?

LADHARI: We need to first boost interactions between Algerian and Tunisian private sector actors. This is taking place. For example, we are seeing Tunisian service companies looking for opportunities in Algeria. For this to take on a greater dimension, there needs to be further collaboration between decision makers in both countries and across the public and private sector. In 2017 we hope to see the creation of structures and Customs agreements to deepen our industrial relationship. There is momentum on both sides for this.

Oxford Business Group

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