With or without EU deal, Tunisia must undertake reforms ( former commissioner for agriculture) | Tunisia News Gazette

With or without EU deal, Tunisia must undertake reforms ( former commissioner for agriculture)

Tunisia must undertake agricultural reforms to be competitive on the global market independently of the agreement it intends to sign with the European Union (EU), said former commissioner for agriculture and rural development Dacian Ciolos.

Europe is committed to the stabilisation and consolidation of the Tunisian economy, he Tuesday told TAP in an interview on the sidelines of a civil society roundtable meeting on agriculture as part of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) which second round of negotiations is set for April 24-26 in Tunis.

As negotiations focused on agriculture are drawing closer, institutional structures should engage in dialogue with all stakeholders, including civil society. The latter must get involved in this process, Ciolos said.

There is need to move forward from an ideological approach to a pragmatic discussion based on figures, data and arguments, he emphasised. With or without an agreement with the European bloc, Tunisia must carry out economic reforms for the world is moving on; Tunisia should not harbour fears and put off the matter.

“I can say, from my own experience, that the EU will not pressurise Tunisia into concluding this agreement. If Tunisia does not wish to move ahead with the agreement, negotiations will proceed at the pace it wants,” Ciolos said.

Europe will negotiate an asymmetrical agreement, that is one which is more favourable to Tunisia, and accept a transition period. A number of sectors can be protected pending reforms. There will be temporarily no access to some European agricultural products and quotas will be agreed upon in order not to hamper the development potential of the Tunisian production. Meanwhile, Tunisia should have a strategy and a clear vision as to how the EU can help its agriculture achieve its objectives.

There will be financial reforms, in particular, that may be supported by the EU. Tunisia will not only negotiate a trade agreement as it will rather be an agreement of support and partnership with the Union, the European official said.

“The European Commission is ready to assume some financial commitments; a substantial financial assistance is intended, proportionately to the size of the Tunisian population, as part of support for neighbour countries,” he highlighted.

It is not in Europe’ s interest to destabilise the Tunisian economy; a more stable and stronger Tunisian economy is the target, Ciolos said. If anyone can imagine that the European bloc wants to flood the Tunisian market with its products, then they do not understand its logic.

Opening up the Tunisian market too early, a major risk for agriculture

Opening the Tunisian market too early is a major risk when some groups of products are not competitive, the former European Commissioner said. Consumers can have access to cheaper products but this can prove to be detrimental to national producers. Tunisia needs to conduct impact studies to identify these sectors and producers.

There is need to help Tunisia assume such risks and become increasingly competitive through an agricultural policy, investments, the organisation of the sector and advanced technologies.

Climate change and water shortage are major challenges. Climate change has nothing to do with trade agreements and solutions must be identified with or without a deal with the EU, Ciolos highlighted.

The Tunisian government must adopt appropriate measures while making use of the European financial assistance. Investments can be used to find water resources, undertake researches to identify more resistant varieties of agricultural products and embrace water-saving technology.

With or without support from the EU and other partners across the globe, Tunisia needs a national agricultural policy involving all support instruments that can help it attain its own targets, Dacian Ciolos underlined.

The greatest danger for Tunisia is to negotiate a deal while having no national vision; an international agreement is just a tool to increase national resources based on a national policy of development and reform.

Source: TAP News Agency

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