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December 14th, 2011 WW Staff | NikeLeaks Cables: Africa and Middle East
 

Tunisia: BEN GUERDANE'S "LIBYAN SOUK": CHEAP GOODS, BIG INCOME

     
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Reference ID: 06TUNIS2329
Created: 2006-09-11 09:26
Released: 2011-08-30 01:44
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Origin: Embassy Tunis

VZCZCXRO6553
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DE RUEHTU #2329 2540926
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 110926Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1810
INFO RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI PRIORITY 0791
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 7280
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1176
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT PRIORITY 0779
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1629
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 8210
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI PRIORITY 0388
RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA PRIORITY 3989
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS TUNIS 002329
 
SIPDIS
 
SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
 
STATE FOR NEA/MAG (HARRIS) AND EB/CIP
STATE PASS USTR (BELL), USPTO (ADLIN), USAID (DMCCLOUD)
USDOC FOR ITA/MAC/ONE (ROTH), ADVOCACY CTR (JAMES), AND
CLDP (TEJTEL)
CASABLANCA FOR FCS (RORTIZ)
LONDON AND PARIS FOR NEA WATCHER
 
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ETRD KIPR LY TS
SUBJECT: BEN GUERDANE'S "LIBYAN SOUK": CHEAP GOODS, BIG
INCOME
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  In the "Libyan souk" of Ben Guerdane, a
town 30 kilometers from the Tunisian-Libyan border, Tunisians
can pay bargain prices for questionably imported, often
counterfeited goods from Libya.  Although the GOT asserts
that it is committed to intellectual property right
protection and enforcement, the souk is an important source
of income for many unemployed Tunisians-- a subject of acute
and overriding concern for the government-- and thus is
allowed to operate freely.  End Summary.
 
2. (SBU) The city of Ben Guerdane is located 30 kilometers
from Tunisia's border with Libya and is an important transit
point between the two countries.  But for many Tunisians, Ben
Guerdane is itself the final destination.  Tunisians travel
from across the country to purchase the cut-rate clothing,
electronics, housewares, and tires that can be found in what
is popularly known as the "Libyan souk."  Every day from 6 am
to 6 pm the Libyan souk in Ben Guerdane opens for business,
boasting hundreds of stalls, some permanent and some
makeshift, but each filled to the brim with cheap goods of
dubious origin.
 
3. (SBU)  Nearly all the goods have entered Tunisia via the
Libyan border, often smuggled across in cars and trucks
during the night to evade customs officials.  While goods of
Libyan origin are not subject to customs duties, the majority
of products are from Egypt or China.  In addition to their
questionable entrance into the country, many goods are also
counterfeit and bear familiar, but often misspelled, brand
names such as Nike, Pansonic, and Phillibs.
 
4. (SBU) While the the quantity of smuggled goods is
significant, the trafficking is apparently not the work of
organized smuggling rings but is largely done by individual
Tunisian families.  One family member crosses the border by
car or truck into Libya and returns with it full of goods,
which the family then sells at the market.  On the August day
EconOff visited the souk, even the children were hard at
work, using wheelbarrows to move wares from cars to the
stalls or even manning the shops.  While some families are
lucky enough to occupy permanent concrete shops, others have
created makeshift stalls or sell their goods directly out of
their cars.  According to several contacts, this is often
these families' only source of income.
 
5. (SBU) Despite the illegality of the majority of goods sold
at the souk, the Government of Tunisia considers all
purchases made within the souk to be legal.  The souk itself
it located on GOT property and several Tunisian police
officers are present at the entry points to the souk.  For a
fee of three dinars, shoppers can legalize their purchases by
receiving a receipt to present to Tunisian customs officials
showing that they purchased the goods in Ben Guerdane and did
not import them.
 
6. (SBU) Comment: The market's existence highlights not only
to the informal linkages between Tunisia and Libya, but also
the GOT's acute concern about unemployment.  With the
official unemployment rate hovering at 15 percent, and the
actual rate even higher, the government is reluctant to
eliminate the only source of income for many Tunisian
families. Despite the GOT,s stated commitment to counter
piracy and counterfeit products, its authorization of a
market like Ben Guerdane is unlikely to end until alternative
employment options exist for the families involved.  End
comment.
BALLARD

 
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