Canada and Tunisia established diplomatic relations in 1957. The bilateral relationship is cordial and both countries are members of La Francophonie. There are 15,000-20,000 Canadians of Tunisian origin in Canada, residing mainly in the province of Quebec. In addition, Canada attracts an average of 2,000 Tunisian students annually, also primarily to Quebec, second only to France in popularity as a place of study. Canada welcomes the progress Tunisia has made towards democracy since the Jasmine Revolution of January 2011 and is working with the international community to support its political and economic transition.
In recognition of Tunisia’s economic and social progress, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) ceased bilateral programming in August 2008. Tunisia continues to benefit from regional programming under the auspices of the G8-Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) initiative. Since the Jasmine Revolution of early 2011, the Government of Canada has supported voter registration for the 2011 National General Assembly elections, freedom of expression and information, the civic and political engagement of women, media training and human rights. Canada’s also contributed $10.6 million in humanitarian assistance to Libya to alleviate the strain on neighbouring countries like Tunisia caused by the Libyan conflict in 2011.
Although Canada and Tunisia lack a bilateral extradition treaty, both are parties to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC), which permit extradition in accordance with Canadian law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canada has also introduced the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials (Tunisia and Egypt) Act, which gives effect to written requests from the Tunisian government to freeze assets placed in Canadian financial institutions by senior officials of the former regime, as well as their family members and associates.
Commercial relations between Canada and Tunisia are modest. Tunisia presents commercial opportunities in the infrastructure, energy, consulting and engineering services, and education sectors. Canadian exports to Tunisia totalled $93.6 million in 2010 and $101.9 million in 2011. Canada is Tunisia’s exclusive supplier of durum wheat which constitutes about 48.4% of Canadian merchandise exports in 2011. Other exports include machinery and vehicles (5.7%) and medical instruments (2.0%). In 2010, Canada imported $50.7 million worth of merchandise from Tunisia and $53 million in 2011. Imports include woven and knit apparel (43.0%), fats and oils (16.3%), machinery (9.5%), and edible fruits and nuts (6.9%). Canada is the 10th-largest foreign investor in Tunisia and the 2nd-largest in the oil and gas sector. The value of Canadian investments in Tunisia is estimated at approximately $560 million, mainly in the fields of natural resources, engineering consulting services and tourism.
At the Deauville Summit, Prime Minister Stephen Harper emphasised the importance of economic liberalisation to economic recovery in Tunisia. It is therefore noteworthy that former Tunisian Prime Minister Beji Caïd Essebsi’s development plan called for free trade agreements with Canada, the United States and Japan. In an effort to restart the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) negotiations begun under the former Tunisian regime, a Canadian delegation travelled to TUNIS in March 2011 and met with a Tunisian delegation from the ministry of Planning and International Cooperation.
In February 2012, Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird visited Tunis for a Friends of Syria meeting. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon visited Tunis in August 2009, and Tunisian Foreign Affairs Minister Kamel Morjane travelled to Ottawa in April 2010.
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