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Viewing cable 09TUNIS270, FRENCH PM FILLON SIGNS EIGHT ECONOMIC AGREEMENTS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TUNIS270 2009-04-30 10:10 2011-02-21 00:12 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tunis
Appears in these articles:
http://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/170211/tunisie-wikileaks-portrait-dune-diplomatie-francaise-soumise-au-regime-
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTU #0270/01 1201021
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301021Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6252
INFO RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
UNCLAS TUNIS 000270
 
SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
 
STATE FOR EEB/IFD/OMA, EEB/EPPD, AND NEA/MAG
(PATTERSON/HAYES)
STATE PASS USTR (BURKHEAD) AND USAID (MCCLOUD)
USDOC FOR ITA/MAC/ONE (MASON)
CASABLANCA FOR FCS (ORTIZ)
LONDON AND PARIS FOR NEA WATCHER
 
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM KNNP KPAO FR TS
SUBJECT: FRENCH PM FILLON SIGNS EIGHT ECONOMIC AGREEMENTS
ON VISIT TO TUNISIA
 
-------
Summary
-------
 
1. (SBU)  French Prime Minister Francois Fillon wrapped up a
36-hour official visit to Tunisia on April 24, and then
stayed on for a few days of personal travel.  He brought with
him an entourage of 100 people, including four ministers, 60
businessmen, and 10 university chancellors.  He met with
several Tunisian ministers, including the Prime Minister, as
well as President Ben Ali.  During the visit, Fillon signed
eight bilateral accords on financing for small and medium
enterprises (SMEs), transportation, nuclear cooperation, and
an 80 million euro bilateral aid package.  Fillon also spoke
on migration, the economic crisis, and the Mediterranean
Union.  Noticeably absent from the delegation were Foreign
Minister Bernard Kouchner and French Secretary of Human
Rights Rama Yade.  Publicly, Fillon barely touched on
democracy and human rights during his stay.  End Summary.
 
------------------------------------------
Aid for SMEs and Transportation Agreements
------------------------------------------
 
2. (U) France is by far Tunisia's largest trading partner,
with bilateral trade currently standing at 7.2 billion euros
per year.  France has over 1,000 businesses in Tunisia
(employing over 108,000 people), is Tunisia's largest aid
donor (120 million euros per year), and sends the largest
number of tourists (1.2 million in 2008) to Tunisia.  During
his visit, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon focused on
economic cooperation, bringing over 60 French businessmen in
his delegation.  He announced the creation of a 40 million
euro credit line for Tunisian exporters, with the caveat that
they buy French products.  He also signed an MOU for dialogue
between the French Development Agency (AFD) and the Tunisian
Ministry for Development and International Cooperation,
noting the AFD had signed three aid agreements for 80 million
euros, 65 million destined to water management and 15 million
to vocational training.
 
3. (U) Transportation was a hot topic during the visit.
France and Tunisia signed a framework agreement for
partnerships in air, maritime, land, and rail transport.  In
addition, the parties signed an accord creating a maritime
transport institute and another to move forward with the
project of extending the Tunis tramway and building local
express trains.  The Tunis Urban Transport Society (TRANSTU)
signed a deal to buy 16 tramway cars for 65 million euros
from French company Alstom.  According to an Alstom employee,
this deal includes a 10-year maintenance contract.  On the
sidelines of the visit, the Tunisian Industry, Trade and
Handicrafts Union (UTICA) met with its French counterpart,
the Movement of French Enterprises (MEDEF).
 
4. (U)  The Tunisian Minister of Transportation, Abderrahim
Zouari, outlined the GOT's strategy to modernize ports and
raise the percentage of the national fleet used for transport
of merchandise from 9 percent currently to 20 percent by
2016.  Zouari mentioned some of Tunisia's plans for
modernization in logistics transport services, noting the
GOT's plan was to reduce the cost of logistics from 20
percent of GDP to 15 percent, especially in view of likely
increases in volume of transported goods (from 95 million
tons in 2007 to an expected 190 million in 2016).
 
---------------------------------
The Economic Crisis and Migration
---------------------------------
 
5. (U)  Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi said the
international economic crisis would not alter bilateral
investment dynamics in any way.  Minister of Transportation
Zouari, however, took a more practical approach by noting the
GOT had to raise competitiveness in the field of logistics in
order to counter the effects of the crisis.
 
6. (U)  With approximately 600,000 Tunisians or dual
nationals currently living in France, migration is a key
piece of the bilateral relationship.  The GOF issued nearly
80,000 visas last year to Tunisian citizens (an 8 percent
rise from 2007), most for short-term stays.  Last year,
during President Sarkozy's visit, France and Tunisia signed a
migration accord providing 40 million euros over three years
 
for vocational training.  The accord also set aside 3,500
employment visas annually for young Tunisians working in a
variety of sectors.  During his visit, Fillon was questioned
on this topic, and clarified that the plan was part of a
""controlled management of migration flows"" and was intended
to limit economic migration.
 
-------------------------------
Robust Cooperation on Education
-------------------------------
 
7. (U) Education cooperation was a big deliverable during
Fillon's visit.  Currently, over 10,000 Tunisian students
study in France and over 60 percent of France's bilateral aid
is destined to higher education programs.  Half of the
accords signed dealt with education, among them a fashion
institute cooperation agreement and an agreement between a
major French engineering school (ENSTA) and an engineering
school in Bizerte (ENIT), with a goal of training 3,000
engineers yearly.  In addition, the Research and Teaching
Pole of d'Aix Marseille signed an agreement with Tunisian
universities in El Manar to create a Mediterranean center for
scientific and technical cooperation.
 
8. (U)  Dominique Busserau, French Secretary of
Transportation announced the creation of a satellite of the
French Institute for International Transport and Ports (ITIP)
in Tunis, and alluded to an agreement signed between the
Paris Transport Authority (RATP) and the Institute of
Transport and Logistics in Sousse.  The French delegation
also announced the upcoming opening of a Tunis branch of
Paris Dauphine University.
 
-------------------------------------
Moving forward on Nuclear Cooperation
-------------------------------------
 
9. (U)  Tunisia and France signed two agreements on nuclear
cooperation during the visit, one outlining intergovernmental
cooperation on development of peaceful uses for nuclear
energy and another forming a steering committee on the same
subject.  France is helping Tunisia develop its first nuclear
power station by 2020, which will produce 900 MW of
electricity (20 percent of the country's estimated need).
France has similar atomic energy deals with Algeria, Libya
and Morocco.
 
-------------------------------------------
The Mediterranean Union ... An Afterthought
-------------------------------------------
 
10. (U) According to press reports, Fillon mentioned the
Union of the Mediterranean (UPM) only tangentially, calling
it a tool for regional integration.  He said the
Mediterranean had high potential and the two countries needed
to create a common space to develop projects and dialogue.
 
----------------------------------
We Don't Give Lessons on Democracy
----------------------------------
 
11. (SBU) In comparison to economic issues, the Prime
Minister made fewer public statements on democracy and human
rights.  Fillon didn't include Foreign Minister Bernard
Kouchner or Secretary of Human Rights Rama Yade in his
delegation.  Although French PolOff told the Embassy that
Fillon raised the issue in private with the GOT, the press
reported that he praised President Ben Ali for inviting
international observers for the upcoming election, adding
that it was a step toward progress.  (Note: Ambassador and
other Emboffs will seek further information from French
counterparts in the coming days. End Note.)  When Fillon was
pinged on these issues during a press conference, he said
that France ""doesn't give lessons"" on human rights, and that
the world ""asks more of Tunisia"" because it is more developed
and more ""similar to us.""  He added that human rights
problems ""arise pretty much in every country in the world""
and that democratization is a ""continuous process.""
 
-------
Comment
-------
 
12. (SBU)  After Kouchner's March 2009 interview in Jeune
 
Afrique, in which he noted Tunisia could do more on democracy
and human rights -- comments which incensed the GOT -- Fillon
steered clear of those issues publicly and focused on the
bilateral economic relationship.  The visit was well-received
by the GOT, which is actively exploring possible commercial
opportunities to stem the negative effects of the global
economic crisis.  Relations between France and Tunisia
continue on a steady positive note, as France remains
Tunisia's most important commercial and political partner.
End Comment.
Godec