PM’s working visit to Washington seeking support for Tunisia to combat terrorism and corruption

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed completed his working and friendship visit to Washington from 10 to 12 July.
“Mainly of a political nature,” said a Prime Ministry statement, the visit was an opportunity for the Prime Minister to meet senior officials of the new Trump administration.
On the first day of his visit to Washington, the Prime Minister met with US Vice President Michael Richard Pence, who reaffirmed the United States’ support for Tunisia, as “it works to strengthen its security capacity, implement essential economic reforms and continue developing its democratic institutions “.
According to a press statement from the White House press office, Michael Pence applauded the Prime Minister’s recent efforts to combat corruption and “encouraged him to continue to carry out sustainable reforms that will attract investment and create jobs for Tunisians “.
The two leaders highlighted the strong cooperation between their countries, whose relationship dates to 1797, the statement reads.
The Prime Minister also met in the Capitol, members of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US Congress. He also met with US senators and members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. These talks focused on the challenges facing Tunisia. “Our interlocutors were receptive to the arguments put forward,” he said in a press statement.
On the talks he had with US officials, Youssef Chahed highlighted the concordance of views between the new US administration and the Tunisian State. “US officials and senators are convinced of the need to support Tunisia as a strategic ally in the fight against terrorism.
Youssef Chahed had a talk in the Pentagon, with US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who reaffirmed the US’s readiness to further strengthen military and security cooperation with Tunisia and to continue supporting its process of Democratic transition. He also praised Tunisia’s unwavering commitment to the war on terrorism and its involvement in the fight against Daech.
The US Defence Secretary noted the efforts made by Tunisia in the fight against corruption, in particular, smuggling, which is one of the main sources of financing for terrorism.
For his part, Youssef Chahed affirmed during the meeting, Tunisia’s readiness to work to intensify and further develop security and military cooperation with the United States based on the common interest of the two countries to eradicate terrorism and promote peace and security in the region and in the world.
Besides, Youssef Chahed’s meeting, Tuesday evening at the White House with US National Security Adviser, General Herbert Raymond, H.R. McMaster, was an opportunity to discuss the Tunisian strategy in the fight against terrorism and extremism. The meeting, said a source from the Prime Ministry, focused on the security situation in the region and on the fight against terrorism and extremism.
Youssef Chahed’s visit to Washington comes at a time when the new budget of the Trump administration for the financial year 2018 provides for a significant reduction in military and economic aid to Tunisia. The Trump administration proposes to grant to Tunisia, for the fiscal year 2018, aid of only $ 54.6 million (133.5 MTD), a decrease of $ 85.8 million (209.8 MTD ) compared with the year 2017.
“Any downward revision of US security and economic aid to Tunisia risks sending a negative message to terrorist organisations as to the capabilities and readiness of the Tunisian security and military forces,” Chahed said in a press statement on the sidelines of his visit to Washington.
Reply was given to this plea. Arizona Republican senator John McCain assured that the drop in US aid planned in next year’s budget bill will not pass in the US Congress.
Speaking on the sidelines of a debate meeting organised on Tuesday at the Heritage Foundation under the theme “Strategic partnership between the United States and Tunisia as part of regional stability”, the US senator insisted : “Republicans and Democrats in the US Congress will not vote a law in favour of decreasing economic aid to Tunisia.”
Another testimony of support for Tunisia marked the first visit of Youssef Chahed in the United States. Members of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee proposed a resolution in which they called on the US government to provide financial assistance to Tunisia to strengthen its transition process.
In the text of the resolution released Tuesday, members of the Committee reaffirmed their country’s support for Tunisia and “will to provide a sufficient level of assistance to support the ongoing transition towards a more inclusive democracy and prosperous stable”.
They also stressed the importance of accelerating economic reforms in Tunisia and measures to combat corruption.
In this resolution, the senators also urged the Tunisian authorities to do everything possible to “stem the departure of Tunisian jihadists towards Iraq and Syria”, committing “the neighbours of Tunisia to collaborate with the government of Youssef Chahed in order to combat the terrorist threat, secure borders and support the Tunisian democratic transition.”
This resolution was proposed by Senators Ben Cardin and Marco Rubio on the occasion of Youssef Chahed’s visit to the United States. Among the signatories to the resolution were Senators Chris Coons, Ed Markey, Tim Kaine, Tammy Baldwin, Tom Cotton and John McCain.
Youssef Chahed met on Monday in Washington with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The US Treasury Department described the meeting as “productive”. For his part, Youssef Chahed underlined the special attention given by this department to the Tunisian democratic experience and its readiness to support Tunisia and to help it carry out its transition process.
Meeting on Tuesday in Washington Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) David Lipton, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said in a joint statement with the IMF official that he had agreed with his interlocutor to continue implementing the agreement of June 12, 2017 in Tunis, providing notably for the payment of the second tranche of the loan granted to Tunisia, amounting to 314.4 million dollars (787 million dinars).
In this connection, Chahed has expressed Tunisia’s readiness to respect all its commitments despite the difficulties it faces.
For his part, the Deputy Managing Director of the IMF said that he was “very pleased to support Tunisia”.
“Our meeting was an occasion to discuss the achievements made by Tunisia so far,” he said, adding that he also discussed with Youssef Chahed the challenges that remain to reach the stage of emerging growth, promote macroeconomic stability, identify ways to mitigate budget and current account deficits, and improve the investment climate for better growth.
The Prime Minister also met president of the American Chamber of Commerce, in the presence of American and Tunisian businessmen.
On this occasion, he highlighted the improvement of the investment climate in the country in recent months, ensuring that the economic growth rate will reach 2.5 pc by the end of 2017.
On the last day of Youssef Chahed’s visit to Washington, a technical cooperation agreement in the field of aeronautics was signed between a subsidiary of the airline Express Air-Cargo and the American aerospace manufacturer Boeing.
For CEO of Express Air Cargo Anis Riahi, this new project will allow the installation of an aeronautical maintenance centre in Tunisia for export.
The project, according to Riahi, will provide employment opportunities for Tunisian aeronautical engineers, amounting to 90 million dinars. It will start operating in March 2018.
TunisianMonitorOnLine (MNHN)

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