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European Industrial Policies in Tunisia: A Bottom-up Assessment


This report on the industrial sector in Tunisia falls within the European project MEDRESET. It analyses with a bottom-up perspective the European policies towards the Southern Mediterranean. The study’s main outcome is the following: there is no industrial policy per se in Tunisia, namely following the 2011 revolution despite the efforts and reflection to pull Tunisia away from a low or middle-end out-source specialization that is very dependent on the European stakeholders. This comes despite the efforts exerted by public bodies such as the Agency for the Promotion of Industry and Innovation (API) to improve the situation. The same goes for the textile industry. The question of industry in Tunisia in terms of the Euro-Mediterranean relations is mainly tackled through free trade agreements, the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement project (DCFTA), as well as the industrial upgrade policy that seems to have borne fruits. Regarding the challenges, and namely the population’s well-being and needs, the industrial sector is led to play a major role, mostly in welcoming the youth to the labour market, especially young graduates, and more generally to become a dynamic export sector. However, on the short term this entails that the industrial sector step out of the apathy prevailing it since the revolution, attract European investments on a broader scale, and finally on the long-term change its method of insertion into the global economy, namely by winning in technology to work up the value chains. Therefore, the DCFTA must take more into account, in negotiations, the specificities of Tunisia, but also change the growth regime, which in turn implies an actual reform of the Tunisian economy and a new social pact between the political-economic elites and the youth. This study shows that the industrial sector is marked by a significant imbalance between the enterprises and is overrun by informal production. Furthermore, the EU policies do not target the industry directly even if the free trade agreements primarily concern the industrial sector. We can conclude that there is a will to maintain cooperation with the European Union, which seems like a vital foothold. Meanwhile, reservations are being increasingly voiced against the DCFTA project, which is raising more concerns than the Barcelona Convention.

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