(MENAFN - Arab News) A high-level Tunisian delegation currently visiting the Kingdom and led by its Prime Minster Hamadi Jebali met with Saudi businessmen at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) on Saturday.
Jebali is on his first visit to the Kingdom after becoming prime minister in the post-revolution government in Tunisia.
The delegation comprises six Cabinet ministers and 30 delegates representing eight major economic and business sectors in Tunisia.
Chairman of the JCCI Saleh Kamel, representatives of the Council of Saudi Chambers and Saudi-Tunisian Business Council attended the meeting.
"We have come to re-establish our foreign relations with our Arab brothers of whom Saudi Arabia comes at the top. During the rule of the former government, Tunisian relations with the Kingdom was not at the desired level," Jebali said, adding that it did not stand to reason that the volume of annual balance of trade between the Kingdom and his country was only around 200 million in the past.
The prime minister said the delegation started their tour of the Arab world beginning from Saudi Arabia because of their respect and appreciation for Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Crown Prince Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior.
Talking about the difficulties faced by Saudi businessmen in his country in the past, Jebali said the former government in his country demanded a prior stamped visa for citizens of Arab countries, while Americans, Europeans and Asian people could travel to the country without one.
The prime minister urged Saudi businessmen to invest in his country in the changed environment, assuring most of the obstacles Saudi investors used to face in the past would be removed shortly as efforts are under way to restructure existing rules and regulations to promote foreign investments.
The prime minister stressed the strategic significance of Tunisia as a hub between the markets of Europe, Morocco and West Africa. He added post-revolution Tunisia would introduce new regulations as part of 14 new organizational frameworks. They include areas of investment and finance especially aimed at providing an investment friendly atmosphere for Arab businessmen.
He also told Saudi businessmen that his government would solve obstacles in air and sea transportation between the two countries so travels related to investments and other fields such as tourism between the two countries would grow considerably.
Urging Saudi businessmen to invest in all areas especially in housing, the minister said his government would offer incentives such as land at token prices and infrastructure for housing. He pointed out investment projects in agricultural farms could be launched in the central and northern Tunisia where farmland is plenty.
He hoped the annual volume of trade between the two countries would grow to 1 billion in three years.
He said the new government's strategic priority is to forge economic relations with Arab countries with special stress on the Kingdom, and then neighboring countries in addition to the rest of the Arab and Muslim world.
Speaking on the occasion, Saleh Kamel said businessmen in the Kingdom are eagerly waiting for the results of the current visit of high officials, especially given the changed environment in the country. He expected the new government to facilitate wide-ranging commercial and investment partnerships between the two countries.
Chairman of the Council of Saudi-Tunisian Business Suleiman Al-Abiri said the Council of Saudi Chambers is deeply interested in the close commercial and investment relations between the two countries.
He said the meeting, attended by the Tunisian economic delegation including representatives of food industry, chemicals, household furnishing, banks, construction materials, energy, spare parts, international trade and contracting, will go a long way toward creating a favorable investment environment between the two countries and removing all obstacles facing Saudi investors.
The prime minister said his delegation would focus on strengthening commercial exchanges between the two countries and other aspects of economic relations, as Saudi Arabia has a major role to play in the economic development in Tunisia.