“The place where the Arab Spring began is the place where we have seen the most extraordinary progress,” President Obama said as he reaffirmed America’s commitment to Tunisia’s democratic transformation and economic prosperity.

“It was very gratifying to hear about the excellent progress that’s been made in Tunisia’s transformation into an inclusive and functioning democracy,” Obama said on May 21 in Washington after meeting with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi.

According to a White House fact sheet, the United States is considering $500 million in loan guarantees to further support Tunisia’s economic reforms. Total U.S. support for economic growth and democracy in Tunisia since its 2011 revolution is nearly $700 million.

“At this critical time in world history, we think it’s very important for us to continue to expand the economic assistance that we’re providing so that ordinary Tunisians can feel the concrete benefits of a change to a more open and competitive economy,” Obama said.

Secretary of State John Kerry (left) talks with Tunisian Minister for Political Affairs Mohsen Marzouk. Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi stands behind them. (© AP Images)

Obama and Caid Essebsi also discussed regional counterterrorism efforts and security cooperation.

“And in recognition of the importance that we place on the security and diplomatic relationship with Tunisia, I indicated to the president my intention to designate Tunisia as a major non-NATO ally of the United States,” Obama said.

On May 20, Secretary of State John Kerry and Tunisian Minister for Political Affairs Mohsen Marzouk signed a Memorandum of Understanding that covers four areas: regional economic development, promotion of democracy, people-to-people ties and security.

“It will bolster a country leadership team that has really been steadfast in its support of Tunisia’s remarkable democratic progress,” Kerry said at the signing ceremony.

During the Washington visit, Caid Essebsi also met with Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. business leaders at a roundtable event to discuss furthering Tunisia’s economic progress.