General Issues and Regional Groups
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Edited by Miroslav N. Jovanović
Chapter 22: Towards a Relance Arabe? Bilateral and Regional Economic Integration Initiatives in the Middle East and North Africa
22 Towards a Relance Arabe? Bilateral and regional economic integration initiatives in the Middle East and North Africa Tomer Broude* 1 INTRODUCTION The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) lags behind other world regions in terms of economic integration, both formal and actual, even though early attempts at this region’s integration were undertaken as early as the 1950s (Zarrouk, 2000). However, the last few years have shown a renewed resolve to achieve real progress in this area on a regional and subregional basis (for example, in the Gulf Cooperation Council: GCC). Having said this, the economic gains anticipated from wider MENA integration, by any estimate, are not very dramatic.1 Arguably, in no other world region is the project of regional economic integration so politically driven by the ideas of region-building and the achievement of peace and stability through trade, rather than by rational economic logic.2 Against this mixed background, there is some reason to hope that the next decade, perhaps even the next few years, will see more effective regional integration turn into a reality. The aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001, produced an uncertain regional environment (Harders, 2008), but ultimately provided an impetus for change, inter alia through the acceleration of the regional liberalisation process creating the Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement (GAFTA) in 2005,3 and the 2004 Agadir Agreement for the establishment of a Free Trade Zone between the Arabic Mediterranean Nations (the ‘Agadir Agreement’).4 The 2008 international financial crisis and the ensuing drop...
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