Tunisia is nearing agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a $1.78 billion standby loan to protect the economy from external shocks, the IMF said Monday. Negotiations for the Precautionary Stand-By Arrangement are at an \"advanced stage,\" the IMF\'s mission chief to Tunisia, Amine Mati, said following meetings last month with Tunisian authorities. \"As stated by the Tunisian authorities, an arrangement with the IMF is being sought only as a precautionary measure to help support the country during the transition period and, if need be, cope with exogenous shocks that could come from the global environment,\" he said in a statement. An IMF mission led by Mati held talks with Tunisian officials, private business and civil society leaders during the second half of January. Mati said the government\'s macroeconomic policies and structural reforms were \"appropriately focused on promoting inclusive growth with a view to reducing regional disparities and unemployment and achieving social equality, while preserving macroeconomic stability.\" He also said the government\'s financial needs for the coming year were funded, thanks to good revenues and other financing resources already locked in. \"In the coming weeks, the mission will continue to work with the Tunisian authorities to finalize the stand-by arrangement that supports Tunisia\'s economic program for presentation to the IMF Executive Board in March 2013.\"