U.S.-Tunisia Joint Economic Commission: Empowers People, Drives growth, and Reduces Uncertainty Exploited by Extremists

Unlocking the potential in Tunisia’s economy was at the center of last week’s inaugural U.S.-Tunisia Joint Economic Commission (JEC). I co-chaired the dialogue last week in Washington alongside the Tunisian Minister of Vocational Training and Employment, Zied Ladhari. After productive discussions with nearly 100 participants, including private sector partners, we agreed on concrete steps to expand our countries’ economic relationship and create jobs in the United States and Tunisia.  

The economic reforms advanced through the JEC will help spur inclusive economic growth and innovation in Tunisia and lead to greater business opportunities for U.S. firms. These steps will also reduce the divide between those in the formal and informal sectors, a common form of economic marginalization.  The informal sector is marked by insecurity, and it generally means low pay and little hope for a better future. 

The JEC identified tangible steps to eliminate regulatory, legal, administrative, and other barriers, which will enable Tunisians to move more easily from the informal to the formal sector. 

For example, online business registration will make it easier for Tunisians to start businesses, access credit, and ultimately reap the social service benefits of the formal economy. 

These steps also reduce the prospects for corruption, which significantly contributes to economic marginalization. Corruption has a corrosive impact and can lead to cynicism and despair, especially among young people, who make up one of the most fertile recruiting grounds for violent extremists.

The same steps that will help drive economic growth and innovation will also help minimize the economic risk factors that contribute to radicalization and violent extremism. 

When legal and regulatory processes are transparent, predictable, and streamlined, including input from all stakeholders, citizens have a greater voice in determining their economic futures. Inclusive dialogues like the JEC -- which reflect input from private stakeholders -- increase economic opportunities that allow markets to flourish. 

The steps Tunisia is taking to implement reforms serve as a model for economic growth in the region. Moving forward, we will continue to encourage other countries to adopt transparent and inclusive policies that help bring businesses into the formal economy. Overall, if economies can become more open, transparent and inclusive, this will empower people, drive growth, and reduce the potential for radicalization.   

About the Author: Catherine Novelli serves as Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment.

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Under Secretary Novelli delivers remarks at the inaugural U.S.-Tunisia Joint Economic Commission.
May 13, 2016


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