Fresh moves to restore Libyan-Tunisian cross-border trade

By Libya Herald reporters.

Tunis, 16 January 2017:

A further meeting between Libyan and Tunisia officials is due tomorrow, Tuesday, at the Ras Jedir border crossing to try and end the blockage that has stopped movement of road traffic between the two countries.

The Ras Jedir crossing has effectively been closed to traders for the past fortnight because of disputes over smuggling and the movement of goods.

On Friday there was a meeting involving officials between Libyan foreign ministry officials and the governor of Tunisia’s southern province of Medenine, Tahar Matmati, to try and resolve the problems. This was followed today by another involving Libyan customs officials and representatives from a number of municipalities near the border together with a Tunisian delegation led by the sub-prefect of Ben Guerdane.

There have been repeated protests and clashes in Ben Guerdane in recent days over cross-border trade regulations.

They came after Tunisia enacted new legislation on 5 January on the trade of commercial goods and a further crackdown on smuggling – a significant and widespread source of income in the economically deprived Ben Guerdane area.

The town was reported calm today, however, possibly in hope of a breakthrough on trading.

Nonetheless, on both sides of the border there is anger and resentment at current state of affairs. Libyans want to be able to cross the border, and do so without risk of their vehicles being attacked. But they also resent subsidised petrol and cheap goods from Libyan shops being sold at great profit in Tunisia, thanks in large part to the collapsing Libyan Dinar.

In Ben Guerdane, conversely, people want government investment to create jobs and prosperity. Until that happens they want the lucrative smuggling business to continue.

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