Restriction of imports – Soon Tunisians without glasses.

If you think you’re at the end of your troubles, think again, you ain’t seen nothing yet! If you think that the daily problems would stop with the lack of sugar, rice, milk, tomatoes or even medicine, galloping inflation, the breathless economy and a highly revolting political landscape, think again. , you haven’t seen anything yet! Soon, Tunisians may not even be entitled to a clear vision in the proper sense of the word. The import restrictions imposed by the Ministry of Trade on certain sectors, including importers in the field of optics, are the manifestation of this.

On the list of products to which the department wants to apply its abrupt new decisions is a vital piece of medical equipment: eyeglass frames and sunglasses. Since October 17th, importers of this equipment must present a set of documents to the Ministry of Commerce to then obtain permission to import these products, including the famous obligation to import from factories in the exporting country.

Apparently, the people who developed these measures have forgotten that with globalization, the majority of brands today manufacture their products outside the country of origin. “says Rami Gouiaa, the vice-president of the group of distributors-importers in optics under the Confederation of Citizen Enterprises of Tunisia (Conect). ” 90% of European brands are not manufactured in Europe. Goods are consolidated in the country of origin for subsequent distribution “, he explains to us.

Applying these measures in a country where 25% of the population wears glasses is an aberration. For our interlocutor, the 10% of the brands that Tunisian importers could get supplies from – according to the new import conditions – could not meet the needs of a market that also has a single local producer whose production does not even represent 1% of the consumer’s needs. ” This will only promote the parallel market and the consumption of products that do not comply with standards, which also cause more pathologies “says Mr Gouiaa.

Glasses are made of several materials: metal or plastic, usually. The risk lies in those made of poor quality materials; the fakes that flood the anarchist shows and come from the informal circuit, especially. Counterfeit sunglasses are a real poison. Their lenses contain no filters against harmful sun rays and can even accentuate them and cause serious eye damage, not to mention the risk of injury as the materials are much less resistant to impact. ” In a largely sunny country, sunglasses are an important piece of medical equipment “, assures our interlocutor.

In addition to the violation of the Tunisian’s right to health and to the consumption of quality products that comply with standards, the decision of the Ministry of Commerce risks decimating an entire sector. ” Our sector is linked to other areas of activity: ophthalmologists, opticians, whose number is approx. 2,000 on Tunisian territory, transport companies, forwarders… Within a year we will have lost 50% of a sector representing a hundred thousand direct and indirect jobs “, laments Rami Gouiaa.

Worse, with such measures the state is shooting itself in the foot. According to our interlocutor, the majority of their imported goods are currently subject to a 43% tariff. Unable to import them due to the almost impossible conditions to meet, the state will see its revenues fall beyond what the formal economy will have lost to smuggling. ” In October 2021, the duty rates were revised upwards. The frame was spared. So in January 2022, the state decided to increase the duty on products that do not have the EUR.1 certificate. (preferential certificate of origin EUR.1, editor’s note) 13%, while only 10% of the brands we import are able to issue this document “Says Mr. Gouiaa, explaining that EUR.1 products are duty-free.

This systemic incompetence does not stop there. If you are an importer and you still manage to meet the new import requirements, it will take nerves of steel because the Department of Commerce services have not put in place any administrative process to process requests. new initiatives. ” Some of the players in the sector were able to obtain the necessary documents, but once at the Ministry of Trade, they were told that no procedure had been put in place and that the wait for a response would remain indefinitely. “Says our interlocutor.

The optical importer sector is not the only one affected by the new conditions that Fadhila Rebhi’s department has brilliantly devised. Several others have cried foul, especially over the fact that an amnesty period has not been introduced. The Department of Commerce’s restrictions were announced on 16 October 2022 to take effect immediately afterwards on 17 October.

On 19 October, the EU Commission sent a letter to the Minister of Trade demanding that this decision be suspended. A request that fell on deaf ears. Let us remember that Tunisia has signed an Association and Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. Pursuant to this agreement, the country undertakes in particular to facilitate trade both for exports and imports.

Nadya Jennene

Leave a Comment