Forging Bilateral Commercial Bonds: Tunisia –India Relations in Focus

The solid foundations of diplomatic relations between Tunisia and India were laid in 1958, marking the beginning of a fruitful bilateral collaboration. India solidified its commitment in 1963 by establishing a diplomatic mission with residence in Tunis, a significant step that was further elevated to embassy status in 1976, with the appointment of the first resident ambassador in 1978. This progression cemented diplomatic ties between the two nations. In 1981, the Embassy of Tunisia in New Delhi was inaugurated, symbolizing the mutual commitment to deepen bilateral relations.

The dynamics of trade between Tunisia and India are anchored in the Most Favored Nation (MFN) clause, ensuring fair treatment without preferential advantages. For instance, iconic Tunisian products like olive oil face a 45% tax, while phosphoric acid, a significant Tunisian export, is taxed at 5%.

Joint Commissions play a crucial role in strengthening bilateral cooperation. The 12th session of the Joint Commission, held on October 30 and 31, 2017, in New Delhi, underscored the importance of dialogue and collaboration between the two countries. On this occasion, CEPEX signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Federation of Indian Export Organizations (FIEO). This MoU, valid for 5 years and renewable, aims to invigorate commercial cooperation and facilitate exchanges between businesses of both nations.

A series of commercial agreements and protocols have been concluded between India and Tunisia, including the Indo-Tunisian Trade Agreement (1960), the Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation (1994), the Agreement in the field of Small and Medium Enterprises (2007), and a bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (2017).

In December 2020, a joint Tunisian-Indian working group on commercial cooperation was established, demonstrating the ongoing commitment of both countries to strengthen their economic and commercial ties.

Trade Relations between Tunisia and India

India ranks 13th among Tunisia’s clients and 10th among its suppliers in 2023, underscoring the growing importance of trade between the two nations.

The trade balance between Tunisia and India, measured in millions of dinars (DT), reveals a significant evolution over the years:

2021 2022 2023
Exports (million DT) 478.2 944.8 816.4
Imports (million DT) 1,181.0 1,651.0 1,746.4
Balance (million DT) -702.9 -706.3 -930.1
Coverage Rate (%) 40% 57% 47%

Source: National Institute of Statistics (INS) of Tunisia

In 2023, bilateral trade between Tunisia and India reached 2.5 billion dinars, equivalent to approximately 800 million US dollars. However, the trade balance recorded a deficit of about 930 million dinars in favor of India.

Tunisian exports to India totaled 816 million dinars in 2023, marking a decrease of 13.6% compared to 2022.

Among the main exported products is phosphoric acid, primarily due to the Tunisia-India Fertilizer (TIFERT) plant in operation since 2013, accounting for 78% of total exports to India. This is followed by sodium tripolyphosphate (9.3%) and dates (1.7%).

Exported Products (2022-2023)

ProductsExported 2022

(In millions DT)


(In millions DT)

Evolution 2023/2022 Share %
Phosphoric Acid 625.0 743.3 19% 78.2%
Mineral or Chemical Fertilizers 146.4 88.8 -39% 9.3%
Worn clothing and clothing accessories 6.7 22.6 238% 2.4%
Dates 11.9 16.4 38% 1.7%
Phosphates and Polyphosphates 35.5 15.1 -58% 1.6%
Aluminum Waste and Debris 9.1 10.2 12% 1.1%
Iron or Steel Waste and Scrap 1.1 6.0 426% 0.6%
Wool 5.7 5.9 3% 0.6%
Apparatus Parts 4.9 5.2 6% 0.5%
Men’s Suits 3.9 4.5 15% 0.5%
Textile Wastes, Rags, Twines and Cords 1.8 3.4 86% 0.4%
Printed Circuits 3.4 2.7 -21% 0.3%
Fittings, Pipes, Boilers, Reservoirs, Tanks 0.4 2.4 581% 0.3%
Electrical Circuit Breaker Switches 3.5 2.4 -31% 0.3%
Coral and Similar Materials 0.9 1.9 110% 0.2%
Women’s Suits and Ensembles 0.7 1.6 121% 0.2%
Chamois Leather and Skins 1.3 1.5 15% 0.2%

Source: CEPEX/DOMI Compilation

Haut du formulaire

Rising Trends in Tunisian Imports from India: A Closer Look

Trade statistics unveil a burgeoning trend in Tunisian imports originating from India throughout the year 2023. With a significant surge, these imports soared to a substantial amount of 1.7 billion dinars, approximately equivalent to 500 million US dollars, marking a notable increase of 5.8% compared to the preceding year.

Among the imported products, automobiles hold a prominent position in the Tunisian economic landscape. Indeed, they constitute a significant portion of imports from India, amounting to 381 million dinars in 2023. This category thus represents 19% of Tunisia’s total imports from India for the period. It is noteworthy that nearly half of these imported vehicles stem from the South Korean brand Hyundai, manufactured in India. Moreover, models of Indian brands such as Mahindra also make their presence felt in the Tunisian market. Some of these models, notably the Mahindra pickup, are even assembled or manufactured locally in Tunisia.

This diversification of imported products underscores the varied nature of trade between Tunisia and India, highlighting mutual economic needs and opportunities. Indeed, this trend reflects the determination of both countries to diversify their trade exchanges and address the specific demands of their respective markets.


ProductsImportedfromIndia 2022 2023 Var % Share %
Passenger Cars 299.4 381.3 27% 19%
Sugars 94.4 310.4 229% 16%
FrozenTuna Fish 93.9 152.3 62% 8%
Semi-Finished Iron or Steel Products 0.0 139.3 0 7%
Cotton Yarns 68.7 54.8 -20% 3%
Polyacetals, OtherPolyethers, Epoxy 65.3 47.6 -27% 2%
TherapeuticMedicaments 47.3 42.7 -10% 2%
Centrifuges 54.6 38.5 -29% 2%
Heterocyclic Compounds with Nitrogen 22.8 28.3 24% 1%
Tractors 34.0 27.8 -18% 1%
DiscontinuousSyntheticFibers 21.6 25.1 16% 1%
AluminumStrandedCables 7.6 22.2 193% 1%
Zinc in Raw Form 15.4 21.4 39% 1%

Perspectives and Opportunities for Tunisian-Indian Cooperation

India, as the world’s leading importer of phosphoric acid, capturing 38.6% of global imports, or nearly $3.5 billion USD, presents a significant partnership opportunity for Tunisia. This opportunity is particularly crucial in the fields of agriculture and food security, where phosphoric acid is widely used as fertilizer. To fully seize this opportunity, Tunisia is considering expanding its production capacity at the TIFERT Plant in Skhira, a joint Tunisian-Indian project led by the CPG (Compagnie des Phosphates de Gafsa) and the GCT (Groupe ChimiqueTunisien) with a 70% stake from Tunisia and 30% from India. In 2022, Tunisia was India’s 4th supplier, with a market share of 6.5%.

Additionally, untapped export opportunities to India are estimated at $221 million, covering several sectors:

  • Agri-food: Olive oil, with an additional export potential estimated at $5.8 million, and dates, with a potential of $16 million for Tunisia.
  • Electrical and electronic industries: Including products such as wiring, interceptors, and electrical conductors.
  • Renewable energy and water resource management.
  • Healthcare: Encompassing medical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnological fields.
  • Indian companies boast significant expertise in innovation, research and development, as well as advanced technologies, thus offering promising collaboration prospects for Tunisian enterprises.

Positioned at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, Tunisia offers industrial competitiveness and economic openness through its numerous regional and international trade agreements, facilitating trade with many countries and regions worldwide without excessive tariff barriers. It thus serves as a gateway for Indian goods to a market of nearly one and a half billion consumers.

Finally, Tunisia’s recent accession to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), representing nearly 500 million consumers, provides an additional opportunity for Indian enterprises. Tunisia thus positions itself as a hub and gateway to Africa, particularly Francophone Africa, aligning with their expansion strategy towards the South.

Zoom on Joint Promotional Activities

Over the years, several initiatives have been undertaken to promote trade relations between Tunisia and India:

  • Tunisian participation, under the auspices of CEPEX (Tunisia Export), at the AAHAR Food and Hospitality Industries Exhibition (2015) in New Delhi.
  • Tunisian-Indian Business Forum and B2B Meetings (October 30, 2017 – New Delhi): This event took place on the sidelines of the joint commission and in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Export Organizations. It facilitated direct links between businesses from both countries, thus promoting trade exchanges.
  • Tunisian-Indian Business Meetings (January 17, 2018 – Tunis): Organized in partnership with the Federation of Indian Export Organizations, these meetings brought together around twenty Tunisian businessmen and 24 Indian businessmen. Represented sectors included pharmaceutical industries, steel manufacturing, exports of medicinal plants, spare parts, agricultural machinery, telecommunications, and textiles.
  • Training session in partnership with the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT): These training sessions, held in September 2018, were designed to strengthen capacities in the field of international trade, particularly within the Cepex. In partnership with the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, they enabled export promotion executives to acquire new skills and knowledge, thereby fostering better management of trade exchanges between Tunisia and India.
  • Tunisian participation at the SIAL India Food Industries Exhibition held in New Delhi from December 7 to 9, 2023, with the presence of 11 Tunisian companies exhibiting their products within a national pavilion covering an area of 130 square meters

These promotional activities have contributed to invigorating economic exchanges between the two countries and have laid the groundwork for closer and more fruitful commercial cooperation.

Paths for Developing Tunisia-India Cooperation

In the endeavor to strengthen economic and trade relations between Tunisia and India, several paths for development are available for exploration:

  • Preferential and Free Trade Agreements: Examining the possibility of concluding preferential agreements to boost bilateral trade, thereby fostering deeper economic integration. Exploring a free trade agreement with Tunisia could also be considered, catalyzing greater openness in economic exchanges.
  • Promotional Activities and Business Exchanges: Stepping up promotional campaigns in both countries and regularly organizing business delegations to facilitate meetings and explore new commercial opportunities.
  • Enhanced Institutional Cooperation: Strengthening institutional collaboration between CEPEX and the Federation of Indian Export Organizations (FIEO), as well as other relevant Indian bodies, to facilitate exchanges and cooperation between businesses of the two nations.
  • Triangular Actions on Africa: Developing triangular initiatives on Africa by positioning Tunisia as a strategic hub and gateway to the continent for Indian operators. The organization of an India-Africa Summit could be envisioned to bolster economic ties between India and African nations, with Tunisia playing a pivotal role in this endeavor.

By exploring these avenues of development, Tunisia and India can consolidate their economic and trade cooperation, thereby opening up new avenues for growth and partnership.

Feature/Fact Box:

“Sial India 2023” Exhibition: Tunisian Participation

Highlighting the “Sial India 2023” exhibition and its relevance to Tunisian businesses.

The “Sial India 2023” exhibition stands as a crucial opportunity for Tunisian businesses operating in the agri-food sector. In 2023, this event drew over 1,200 exhibitors and nearly 30,000 professional visitors, providing an exceptional platform to showcase Tunisian products in the burgeoning Indian market.

Tunisia’s participation at the “Sial India 2023” exhibition was marked by the presence of a national pavilion featuring 15 Tunisian companies specializing in various segments of the agri-food industry. These companies showcased a diverse range of products, including olive oil, dates, canned fish, and organic products.

This participation yielded significant results. Tunisian companies secured contracts totaling $2.5 million and received over 300 distribution requests from Indian firms. These outcomes reflect the growing interest of Indian consumers in Tunisian products and open new market prospects for Tunisian exporters.

Leave a Comment