Regional Trade Integration in the Middle East and North Africa: Lessons from Central Europe
No 14, FIW Policy Brief series from FIW
In this paper regional integration among the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is addressed. There are a number of economic and integration blocs with one or more MENA countries’ participation, but there is no one overarching agreement that would cover the whole MENA region. The results of various gravity model calculations suggest that intra-MENA trade is below its potential. Intra-MENA trade is a small fraction (5.9% in exports, 5.1% in imports) of the MENA countries’ total trade. Exports to the EU are ten times, imports from the EU eight times more relevant than intra-MENA trade flows. The most recent goal of the EU-MENA cooperation has been the creation of a deep Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area, aimed at a substantial liberalization of trade between both the EU and Southern Mediterranean countries (North-South), and Southern Mediterranean countries themselves (South-South). Recent research result point out that a successful revival of intra-regional trade in Central Europe was conditional upon these countries’ close integration with the EU. In the case of the Central European countries close integration meant full EU membership, what is for the MENA not available currently. Nevertheless a provision of some of the main attributes of deep integration with the EU, even without full membership, may facilitate intra-MENA trade to a similar way as it did for Central Europe.
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