Over the last l2 months the value of Tunisian textile exports have risen by 45 per cent to £39m. Recently Tunisia's keenest export customers within the EU have been France, Germany and Italy.

Now however, following last year's Tunisian trade fair in London, more than thirty leading UK clothing brands are sourcing items in Tunisia and, following a second London event scheduled for March 27 and 28 based at London's Cafe Royal, it is expected that more big names will follow the same route in the near future.

"Already the UK is our sixth most important export market," said the Cepex organisation (Tunisia's Export Promotion authority) which added that no duty is payable on apparel reaching the UK from Tunisia, no quota system is in force and customs clearance can be arranged at the factory of origin.

"Other advantages include speed of transit between Britain and Tunisia - just two and a half hours' flying time away - and the fact that although the official national language is French most manufacturers have fluent English speakers on their staff," said Cepex.

By Sonia Roberts