Canada and Tunisia established diplomatic relations in 1957. The bilateral relationship is cordial and both countries are members of La Francophonie. There are approximately 15,000-20,000 Canadians of Tunisian origin in Canada, residing mainly in Quebec. Canada is a top destination for international education and attracts close to 2000 Tunisian students annually.
Canada welcomes the progress Tunisia has made towards democratic reform since the Jasmine Revolution of January 2011, and has been working with the Tunisian Government and with the international community to support this political and economic transition. At the 2011 Deauville Summit, Prime Minister Stephen Harper supported the inclusion of Tunisia as a member of the Deauville Partnership, emphasizing the importance of liberalisation to promote economic recovery in Tunisia.
In 2012, Canada signaled its support to Tunisia’s transition to democracy with a high-level visit aimed at reinforcing and strengthening bilateral ties. Foreign Minister John Baird traveled to Tunisia on December 17, 2012, where he held constructive talks with President Moncef Marzouki, former Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, and former Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem (press release). Minister Baird used the opportunity to discuss key political, economic and trade issues, including Tunisia’s transition to democracy and the drafting of a new constitution, good governance and human rights, regional security, negotiations for a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), and the launching of direct flights between Montreal and Tunis. In addition to meeting Tunisian officials, Minister Baird met with Leila Bouazizi, whose brother Mohamed’s desperate act on December 17, 2010, sparked the Tunisian revolution and the Arab uprisings. Minister Baird also visited the Massicault War Cemetery outside of Tunis, where he laid a wreath to honour the Canadian soldiers buried there following the defeat of the Axis powers by a combined Allied force in 1943.
Minister Baird’s visit to Tunisia coincided with Tunisia’s hosting of the G-8 Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) Forum for the Future, an annual meeting for Foreign Ministers aimed at expanding ties between G-8 countries and the Arab world, as well as ties between governments and civil society. The Forum was the second major international meeting in Tunisia in 2012, the first being the Friends of the Syrian People, which Minister Baird also attended, in February 2012. Prior to these visits, Canada’s former Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon visited Tunis in August 2009, and former Tunisian Foreign Affairs Minister Kamel Morjane travelled to Ottawa in April 2010.
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.
Although commercial relations between Canada and Tunisia are modest, Canada is committed to pursuing new opportunities to deepen business ties and expand investment in Tunisia. Tunisia presents notable commercial opportunities for Canada in the infrastructure, energy, consulting and engineering services, and education sectors. Canadian exports to Tunisia totaled C$137 million in 2012. Canada is Tunisia’s exclusive supplier of durum wheat which constituted about 65% of Canadian merchandise exports in 2012. Other exports include oilseeds, machinery, textile materials. In 2012, Canada imported C$51.1 million worth of merchandise from Tunisia, including woven apparel, fats and oils, knit apparel and footwear.
Tunisia benefits from regional CIDA programming, as well as from bilateral DFAIT programming in areas such as decentralization and women’s empowerment. Moreover, Canada’s $15 million contribution to the Deauville Transition Fund is funding more than half a dozen projects in support of the democratic transition. Following the Jasmine Revolution of early 2011, the Government of Canada provided support to the transition, including for capacity-building programs in voter registration for the 2011 National General Assembly elections, freedom of expression and information, women’s’ civic and political engagement, media training and human rights. During the Libyan revolution of 2011, Canada also contributed $10.6 million in humanitarian assistance to help alleviate the strain of that conflict on neighbouring countries, including Tunisia.
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