Growing anger over Tunisia border crossing trade agreement
By Libya Herald reporter.
Tunis, 5 January 2017:
There is growing anger in Libya over an agreement last Sunday between Libyan and Tunisian municipalities on either side of the border that would give Tunisian traders a significant financial advantage over Libyans at the Ras Jedir border crossing. NOC chairman Mustafa Sanalla has called it “legalised smuggling” while the head of the Ras Jedir border post, Mohamed Jarafa, says it is “humiliating”.
Under the agreement, Tunisian merchants would be able to export goods from Libya tax-free up to the value of LD 4,000. They would also be able to export 150 litres tax-free. In return, Libyans would be able to import TD 1,000-worth of food and medicines, providing they are proscribed by a doctor.
The deal was agreed after five days of talks in Zawia by officials from the Tunisian border town of Ben Guerdane (including the local member of the national assembly) and representatives from nine western Libyan municipalities. They were triggered by yet more disruption to traffic from Libya in Ben Guerdane because of local anger at Libyan efforts at the border to clamp down on smuggling.
Rejecting the deal, Jarafa accused the municipalities of violating the role of the Libyan state. “We will continue working with our previous cross-border trade procedures,” he said.
Addressing a the annual general meeting of the Zawia Refinery Company two days ago, Sanalla said the agreement was an attempt by Tunisians legalise smuggling to profit at the expense of the Libyan people. The western municipalities had to continue the fight against smuggling operations, he insisted.
He also accused the local Nasr brigade which forms the Petroleum Facilities Guard at the refinery of involvement in smuggling subsidised fuel out of Libya. It resulted in a loss of millions of dollars monthly to the Libyan treasury, he said.