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    Influencing Tunisian Service Exporters


    International Trade Forum - Issue 3/2007, © International Trade Centre

    © FAMEX

    Interview - Slim Chaker

    A specialTrade Forum edition on exporting services, co-produced with this reader, supported an international services fair in Tunisia.

    Trade Forum reader Slim Chaker is Coordinating Director of Tunisia's Export Market Access Fund, FAMEX. A firm believer in the development power of services, he organized the first International Services Salon (SISE) in Tunis in 2004, to increase trade and collaboration between African service sectors.

    Mr Chaker uses the magazine as a touchstone for new trends in trade development and in his outreach work with exporters and trade organizations. He also worked closely with ITC to produce a special issue of Trade Forum for SISE.

    Q: How long have you been reading our magazine?

    A: I've been a regular reader since 1999. That was when I was charged with launching FAMEX, the Export Market Access Fund. I had read Trade Forum before, but with a different outlook - that of a young professional wanting to keep up to date with what was going on in the main international organizations responsible for global economic development.

    Q: How do you use Trade Forum in your work?

    A:Trade Forum is for me an ideas box, a toolbox and a key part of my watch system.

    An ideas box, because I find many interesting themes in it, which I use from time to time in my FAMEX clubs. The clubs are monthly informal gatherings to make new contacts and exchange ideas. They are for company managers, consultants specializing in trade and senior public officials responsible for export development.

    A toolbox, because I get very useful tips and success stories that I can put to use right away - for example, the research on national branding which appeared at the end of 2005.

    A key part of my watch system because the ITC news stories as well as the publications and information products keep me informed about what's happening in the organization and help me stay in touch with its staff.

    Q: Do you prefer the print or the online version?

    A: I use both versions, which are complementary. With the print magazine, all the articles are within easy reach. So I can read it at my own pace in the evenings or at the weekend without needing access to the Internet.

    The online version is a useful archive, allowing you to find articles with a simple click. In fact, I think it's a shame that the articles on the web site only go as far back as 1999. Couldn't they go back further? Some stories and tools are still relevant, even after 20 years. As "best-sellers", they never go out of style.

    Q: Was there a subject or issue of the magazine that was of particular interest, and why?

    A: Above all, everything about the services sector interests me. This sector is still not well known, in spite of its potential to aid development.

    I'm also curious about country cases and best practices. It's always enriching to see how others respond to the various challenges linked to the structural and growth needs of small and medium-sized firms (SMEs) in their own countries.

    Q: Are there any subjects you would like to see addressed in Trade Forum?

    A: My interests are varied. For example:

    • What new comparative advantages do economies like Tunisia's have, faced with competition from China?
    • Are there similar organizations to FAMEX in other countries? What has worked for them and what hasn't? What are the lessons and best practices we can draw from them?
    • Are national and sectoral export development strategies still relevant today? If so, what are their differences and complementarities? What should the respective roles of the public and private sectors be in the conception and implementation of these strategies? Can public-private partnerships (PPP) still play a key role in current development frameworks, and what can be done to balance the interests of the two sectors?
    • How are trade facilitation procedures evolving, and the new services that accompany them, such as paperless or electronic processing, online network security, the growth of multimodal transport, the creation of complex logistical platforms and so on? Will these new services increase the gap between developed and less advanced countries? What can we do to reduce the gap?
    • While customs duties and tariff barriers in general are falling, new and more complex protection measures are on the rise, such as non-tariff barriers. What are these barriers and what can we do about them?
    Q: What would be the best way for these articles to reach readers in Tunisia?A: We need to promote Trade Forum to well-defined groups of potential readers, including company managers, political leaders, senior policymakers, universities and business school students. FAMEX can help by distributing copies of the magazine at its clubs and having reciprocal links between its site and the online magazine. We should also think about how to build a more visible presence in ITC's target countries. One idea would be to appoint representatives from the voluntary sector in these countries to promote the magazine. New chambers of commerce could easily play such a role.

    Q: As a co-producer of a first-ever special Trade Forum issue, do you have anything else to add?

    A: For more than 40 years, Trade Forum has worked to help developing countries advance. It has done this with a high level of professionalism.

    Trade Forum is a worldwide communications tool. It's a kind of "think tank", bringing together and diffusing cutting-edge trends in international trade. It even manages, for certain issues, to be ahead of the curve in its thinking.

    The ability to inform, bring together and innovate on technical subjects as well as Trade Forum does, deserves consideration and respect.

    Bravo to the whole team and carry on the good work!

    Tunisia's Export Market Access Fund FAMEX - the Export Market Access Fund (Fonds d'Accès aux Marchés d'Exportation) - is a programme of Tunisia's Ministry of Trade and Handicrafts, in cooperation with the World Bank. FAMEX is run by CEPEX, the Centre for the Promotion of Exports (Centre de Promotion des Exportations). Independent experts in international trade procedures, who were recruited internationally, manage FAMEX. FAMEX's goals are to:

    • help SMEs to export or diversify their export markets;
    • help professional associations related to exports so they can better assist the firms that are their members; and
    • develop a local network of consultants specialized in trade and export promotion
    FAMEX's first programme ran from 2000-2004. A second five-year (2005-2009) programme is under way. For more information, visitwww.famex.org.tn