Perspectives from Middle East and North African Countries
Edited by Carlo Altomonte and Massimiliano Ferrara
Chapter 2: Does MENA trade too little, both within the region and with other regions? If so, why, and if not, why not?
The Euro-Med partnership has been at least in part motivated by the desire in Europe to decrease the amount of migration (much of it illegal) from Africa and the Middle East by strengthening trade both within the Southern Mediterranean region and between it and Europe. This strategy led to the offers by the EU of Association status and to a lesser extent by EFTA of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) to countries from these regions. The desire to contribute to Middle East peace was another objective of both Europe and the United States in offering trade arrangements to the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. These offers were often accompanied by financial support, technical assistance and other programs designed to help these countries to be more productive and to trade more among each other so as to become a stronger trading bloc. These agreements required gradual elimination of tariffs on each other's goods without affecting the external tariffs of either set of countries on trade with other regions. Although in this way they provided MENA countries with improved access to large markets, from the perspective of the MENA countries involved they were far from what might have been hoped for. In particular, the markets for goods in which MENA countries may have had comparative advantage, such as agricultural products and textiles, remained quite closed to MENA exporters.
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