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Import regulations and customs duties  - Distribution - Transportation of goods - Standards - Patents and brands

Import regulations and customs duties

Although Tunisia has liberalised its import system within the framework of the WTO regulations, a certain number of restrictions still exist. Thus, around 3% of the goods require an import license (agricultural, automobile, textile products) delivered by Ministry of Trade. There are also some quotas, especially for consumer goods which compete with the local industry.

In order to obtain these licenses, a certain number of documents are required such as a trade contract (or any other equivalent document), as well as information relating to the contracting parties, products and origin of goods. In principle, the licenses are valid for 12 months after the decision is delivered by the Ministry of Trade, which may nevertheless reduce this duration for certain products (it can never be less than 2 months). The license can be used partially. It is not transferable.


Customs duties
Tunisia applies the Harmonised Customs Duty System. The customs duties are calculated on ad valorem basis in relation to the CIF value of the goods.
There is a general tariff from 10 to 230%. Agricultural products are often highly taxed, except for goods originating from the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA). Some products originating from Europe (agreement signed in 1995) can also benefit from reduced rates.
Tunisia sometimes applies antidumping rights for which the tax bases and reasons of enforcement are not clearly defined and can sometimes be considered as minimum prices for the calculation of customs duties.



Regulations governing payments
The payment in advance for the goods is allowed by the Central Bank Tunisia, if coupled with a advance payement guarantee.


The distribution market in Tunisia is very traditional and is characterised mainly by small traders. Modern distribution systems have appeared only recently since trading was liberalised in 1999.
The principal economic regions of the country are located in the North in places like Bizerte, Tunis and Ben Arous.

The Business to Consumer (B to C) market
The modern distribution sector has a turnover bordering on 800 million TND, which is 2% of GNP, against 23% in the European countries. Although it has registered an annual growth rate of 15% for 4 years, the sector continues to have significant growth potential. For the moment, three main actors share out the profits: - The Mabrouk Group through the Monoprix stores, which benefit from favorable geographical positioning in the high class districts in Tunisia’s biggest cities, and the Géant superstores developed in association with the French group Casino; - The Chaïbi Group in the superstore and supermarket segment in partnership with Carrefour and Champion; - The public store Magasin Général which remains the leading chain of supermarkets in terms of the number of its outlets and its turnover, but which has now been overtaken in the latter respect by Monoprix. Promogro has entered the “semi-wholesale” market.

The Business to Business (B to B) market
In 1995, Tunisia signed an agreement of association with the European Union and since then, it has followed a liberalisation policy and has undergone significant structural reforms. This agreement will eventually result in the removal of tariffs on industrial and agricultural goods in 2008, and on services in 2010.
The textile sector continues to dominate the Tunisian economy. Today, the principal growth sectors are: transportation, building & construction, electrical and mechanical sub-contracting, IT, plastic technology and industry related services.
In the field of capital equipment and consumer goods, it is advisable to employ the services of an agent who is better acquainted with local customs. Certain sectors are subject to State monopoly such as food products and pharmaceuticals. In order to enter these sectors it is necessary to go through the tender invitation process; these tenders being published in local newspapers.

Numerous fairs and exhibitions are organised each year in Tunisia mainly under the aegis of Société des Foires Internationales de Tunis.


Transportation of goods

By road
The road network in Tunisia extends over 2,000 km. There is three national highway which links Tunisia to M'saken, Bizerte and Béja
The road transport dominates both transportation of passengers and goods. There are different public operators in the road sector: SNTRI (Inter urban National Road Transport Company), the Transtu (fusion between the ex- SNT and SMLT) and the 12 regional transport companies (STRG).

By rail
The railway network is mainly exploited by the public sector company called SNCF of Tunisia (SNCFT). Some trunk lines belong to the Compagnie des Phosphates de Gafsa and to the Network of Electricity and Transport. The railway line called Tunis-Borj-Cédria is the main one. There is another line called Tunis-Sousse-Sfax-Gabés has been electrified.
In 2006, 3 215 million tons of traffic were carried by the railway transport network.

By sea
96% of Tunisian foreign trade is carried by marine shipping lines. Tunisia has a number of principal trading ports : Tunis-Goulette, Sousse, Sfax, Gabés, Skhira, Bizerta, Radés and Zarzis. In 2006, more than 27 million tons have passes in transit through Tunisian ports.
The State company called CTN (Compagnie Tunisienne de navigation) is the main shipping company in Tunisia; the merchant marine and ports office (OMMP) ensures the ports management.

By air
The principal airport in this country is Tunis-Carthage airport, located 10 km away from the capital. There are 6 other international airports : Monastir-Habib Bourguiba (Skanés), Djerba-Zarzis, Tozeur-Nefta, Sfax-Thyna, 7 Novembre-Tabarka and Gafsa-ksar. The airports of Tunis and Monastir are respectively the second and the third most active airports in the Maghreb region. Tunisia is planning to expand the capacities of these airports, as well as Djerba's airport. A new airport is being constructed in El NFIDHA.
The air travel company called Tunisair absorbs one third of the passenger traffic and half the goods traffic in the region. This company is a member of AACO (Arab Air Carriers Organisation). Sevenair, which is a subsidiary of Tunis Air ensures three internal flights on behalf of some small private companies of chartered flights such as Nouvelair.
In 2006, 43,246 tons of freight were transported through Tunisia's airports.


The competent institution in the field of standardisation it the Institut de la Normalisation et de la Propriété Industrielle (INNORPI - Industrial property Standardisation Institute), created by the law 82-66 dated 6th August 1982 and working under the Ministry of Economy. In this field, INNORPI is responsible for the co-ordination of standardisation, certification and respect information works. The INNORPI is also in charge of preparing the general programme for the elaboration of technical standards, the products quality certification and managing the conformity national brand.

Patents and brands

The INNORPI is responsible for the protection of industrial property. The registration of patents and trademarks comes within its competence. The Tunisian law, in this regard, is very old and the protection that it ensures is weak.
Tunisia is a member of the convention establishing the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) and signed the Paris Convention on protection of industrial property.
As far as trademarks are concerned, Tunisia had signed the Madrid Agreement relating International Registration of Brands, but it left it in 1988.

Texts currently applying to patents/brands

  Text Date entered into law Period of validity Comment
Patent Law n° 2000-84 - 24 august 2000 Period of validity of 5, 10, 15 or 50 years on request
Trademark Law - 23 July 2007 Period of validity of 20 years, renewable
Design Law n° 12 - 9 February 2001 period of validity of 15 years


Last modified in January 2008
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