Capacity limitations. The Tunisian state seems overwhelmed by the multiple challenges of economic transformation and a youthful democratization process. Actors in the European Commission and member states deplore a lack of efficiency, coordination and communication within government and administration (and not only on trade issues). In the DCFTA process, Tunisian agencies often take months or even years to respond to EU proposals and requests for data and statistics, leaving Brussels quite perplexed. While EU officials report improvements since the first round of talks – under the leadership of a new negotiator who has himself advanced – there is still a lack of a clear Tunisian negotiating strategy and proper prioritisation. This is also reflected in the fact that, so far, only the draft EU negotiating text is publicly available. The Agreement applies to trade in fish and other seafood products (Article 4(1)(c) and Annex III). The EFTA States shall grant duty-free access to imports of all Tunisian fishery products. As regards EFTA exports to Tunisia, the Agreement provides for a reduction in customs duties under quotas from the entry into force of the Agreement. A further reduction of customs duties on these products is under review by the Contracting Parties, but a total elimination of customs duties on all fish and seafood products is foreseen no later than eighteen years after the entry into force of the Agreement.
In addition to these reductions in trade tariffs, the Association Agreement also contains provisions agreed between the EU and Tunisia: the free trade agreement includes trade in industrial products, including fish and other seafood products, as well as processed agricultural products. In addition, some EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) and Tunisia have concluded bilateral agreements on basic agricultural products, which are part of the instruments for the creation of the free trade area. The agreement also includes provisions on the removal of other trade barriers and trade-related disciplines, including competition rules, state monopolies and subsidies. In addition, the Agreement contains provisions on the protection of intellectual property, investment, services, current payments and capital movements, public procurement, economic cooperation and institutional and procedural matters. The Agreement provides for the establishment of a Joint Committee to monitor its application and to provide for a binding arbitration procedure. The provisions on the protection of intellectual property rights (Article 23 and Annex V of the IPR) include, inter alia, patents, trademarks, copyrights and geographical indications. They are based on the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and provide for a high level of protection taking into account most-favoured-nation principles and national treatment. Since 2016, the European Union has been negotiating with Tunisia a new free trade agreement (DCFTA) to expand reciprocal market access for all goods, but also for services and investment.