French President Francois Hollande is making his first visit to Tunisia seeking a new page in relations with the North African country that was the birthplace of the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings.

Hollande's conservative predecessor had close ties with Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the dictator overthrown by Tunisians in January 2011, casting a pall over relations between Tunisia and its former colonial ruler.

Hollande arrived Thursday with key ministers and dozens of businessmen to sign a string of cooperation agreements to boost bilateral ties.

France is one of the country's main trading partners.

Hollande visited Tunisia's neighbors Algeria in December and Morocco in April.

International rights groups have called on Hollande to bring up issues of freedom of expression, including vaguely worded statutes against insulting public morals.