Tunisia tackles law to modernise foreign exchange

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia's government on Wednesday began discussions on a new foreign exchange bill it says will help to make international business dealings easier, following calls from Tunisian firms for reform.

"Tunisia looks to modernise the exchange system and to gradual liberalisation of financial relations toward a full liberalisation with the outside world," the government said on Wednesday in a statement following talks on the bill.

Investors have to get central bank approval to access hard currency to fund operations abroad, or obtain credit letters to import goods. The central bank issues approval on a case-by-cases basis, a process some firms say is opaque and overly bureaucratic.

Last month, Central Bank Governor Marouan Abassi said the new law should make the local currency system more flexible without giving more details.

The central bank has sought to limit access to hard currency to stem a fall in the dinar since the toppling of autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 left Tunisia's economy in crisis.

Tunisian banks are unable to issue credit cards for Tunisians that work abroad and foreigners in Tunisia also face restrictions in making bank transfers abroad unless they register as an offshore entity, which allows them privileges.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; editing by Barbara Lewis)