Tunisia–United States relations
Despite being a predominantly Muslim nation, according to a 2012 global opinion poll, 45% of Tunisians view the U.S. favorably.
|This article is outdated. (October 2013)|
The United States has very good relations with Tunisia, which date back more than 200 years. The United States has maintained official representation in Tunis almost continuously since 1795, and the American Friendship Treaty with Tunisia was signed in 1799. The two governments are not linked by security treaties, but relations have been close since Tunisia's independence. U.S.-Tunisian relations suffered in 1985, after Israel bombed the PLO headquarters in Tunis. Believing the US knew about the attack, and was possibly involved, Tunisia considered breaking diplomatic ties with the US. It didn't do so, after the US explicitly dissociated itself from the actions of Israel. Relations also suffered as a result of the 1988 Tunis assassination of PLO nationalist Abu Jihad, and the Gulf War in 1990.
Relations later warmed, reflecting strong bilateral ties. The United States and Tunisia have an active schedule of joint military exercises. U.S. security assistance historically has played an important role in cementing relations. The U.S.-Tunisian Joint Military Commission meets annually to discuss military cooperation, Tunisia's defense modernization program, and other security matters.
The United States first provided economic and technical assistance to Tunisia under a bilateral agreement signed March 26, 1957. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) managed a program until its departure in 1994, when Tunisia's economic advances led to the country's "graduation" from USAID funding. Tunisia enthusiastically supported the U.S.-North African Economic Partnership (USNAEP), designed to promote U.S. investment in, and economic integration of, the Maghreb region. The program provided over $4 million in assistance to Tunisia between 2001 and 2003. The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) was launched in 2002 and incorporated the former USNAEP economic reform projects while adding bilateral and regional projects for education reform, civil society development and women's empowerment. In 2004, the MEPI Regional Office opened in Embassy Tunis. The Regional Office is staffed by American diplomats and regional specialists. It is responsible for coordinating MEPI activities in Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia in close coordination with the American Embassies in those countries.
American private assistance has been provided since independence by foundations, religious groups, universities, and philanthropic organizations. The U.S. Government has supported Tunisia's efforts to attract foreign investment. The United States and Tunisia concluded a bilateral investment treaty in 1990 and an agreement to avoid double taxation in 1989. In October 2002, the U.S. and Tunisia signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), and in October 2003 held the first TIFA Council Meeting in Washington, DC.
American firms seeking to invest in Tunisia and export to Tunisia can receive insurance and financing for their business through U.S. Government agencies, including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Export-Import Bank. The best prospects for foreigners interested in the Tunisian market are in high technology, energy, agribusiness, food processing, medical care and equipment, and the environmental and tourism sectors.
As of February 2008, the principal U.S. Officials included: the Ambassador Robert F. Godec, Deputy Chief of Mission Marc Desjardins, Political/Economic Counselor Dorothy C. Shea, and Commercial Attaché Beth Mitchell. In June 2009, Gordon Gray III was named the new Ambassador to Tunisia from the United States.
- Opinion of the United States
- W. Seelye, Talcott (March 1990). "Ben Ali Visit Marks Third Stage in 200-Year-Old US-Tunisian Special Relationship". The Washington Report. p. 7.