HC Deb 27 November 1996 vol 286 c321
4. Lady Olga Maitland

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on United Kingdom relations with Tunisia.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Jeremy Hanley)

We have excellent relations with Tunisia and we are looking forward to developing them further, particularly in the commercial sector.

Lady Olga Maitland

What progress has been made in convening an investment conference next spring? Does my hon. Friend agree that, outside of tourism, there are tremendous opportunities for British business men in Tunisia? Bearing in mind that Tunisia is keen to broaden its base away from France, Britain as an English-speaking country is its bridge to a wider world. Tunisia is undergoing economic reform and there are opportunities for us to assist with privatisation and much broader infrastructure projects. British Gas is leading the way. Would it not be wonderful if our business men could now follow?

Mr. Hanley

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As part of the United Kingdom's contribution to the EU-Mediterranean dialogue, we are financing an in-depth study of Tunisia as a destination for inward investment and, as my hon. Friend says, organising an EU-Mediterranean investment conference in London next March. Plans are well in hand for that conference.

In all our contacts with Tunisians, we are encouraging them to send a high-level delegation and to take full advantage of the conference as a shop window for Tunisian business opportunities. Tunisians at all levels have told us that they are keen to broaden their economic base and to diversify trade beyond their traditional suppliers. In addition, the learning of English is now a regular part of Tunisian education at every level.

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