Arab Economic Unity Council has urged Arab countries to produce the 92
per cent foreign goods now being imported by the region rather than
focus on liberalizing trade in "crippled economies."
"Inter-Arab trade is low and will not increase through liberalization.
We have to make competitive products that Arab citizens need. They
have to have specifications accepted by Arab citizens. How can we open
borders and liberalize trade when we are crippled?" asked Dr.
Ahmad Gowaili, Arab Economic Unity Council secretary general and
former Egyptian Trade and Supplies Minister.
"Around 92 per cent of our products are foreign. This means that
92 per cent of products needed by Arab citizens are not produced
regionally. Inter-Arab trade will only increase if regional production
rises and products are promoted within Arab states."
Gowaili strongly felt that Arab joint ventures and companies are the
key to the growth of inter-Arab trade. "If, for example,
investors from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iraq set up agricultural and
electronics firms, we will succeed. Council members realize they
should work together. Formation of private sector companies - in
coordination with the council - has nothing to do with politics but
calculated economic welfare."
Gowaili is opposed to the regional duplication of projects like media
production, information technology cities and others. An IT Federation
- under the council - was formed for coordinating Arab policies in the
field rather than duplicating projects as is the case with some Arab
states, he said.
"The IT Federation was formed by Syria, Egypt, the UAE, Jordan,
Morocco, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. It aims at coordinating marketing
policies between producers and consumers so that projects are not
Gowaili warned that Arab contribution in global GDP fell from 3.2 per
cent at the beginning of the 1990s to 2.71 per cent in 1997 - $559
billion out of $28.3 trillion. Arab external trade contribution to
global trade fell from 3.4 per cent in 1992 to 2.9 per cent in 1997.
Inter-Arab trade stagnated at 8 per cent and Arab per capita
contribution in GDP is on a constant fall.
"Arab countries-advanced world digital gap rose. Arab countries
spend 0.2 per cent of local production on scientific research and
technological development against 1.4 per cent for the globe,"
The secretary general said the Arab Investors Federation - in
cooperation with the council - is organizing the formation of two Arab
private sector firms; E-Trade Firm and Trade and Marketing Holding Co.
"We plan a visit to Dubai in the near future to examine its
experience in e-commerce. A meeting - to which the Dubai World Trade
Centre is invited - is organized this month for this purpose."
Details of the Arab Trade and Marketing holding company formation will
be reviewed on April 22 to 24. Feasibility studies on project details
- including capital - are under preparation.
The companies will be set up by the Arab private sector on proper
economic basis with no financial involvement from the two bodies.
"All Arab companies are welcome.
Gowaili expected the November Arab Economic Conference to promote the
region. "An Arab Common Market does not virtually mean a house
with a fence like many believe. It means meeting counterparts and
agreeing on projects. The conference will help activating it."
The conference will exhibit available regional investment
opportunities in trade, technology, and will be a gathering for Arab
private sector and international and Arab organisations like the World
Bank. Several ideas will be proposed.
The council, said Gowaili, plans to continue supporting its 27
federations, including the Arab Federation for Exhibitions and the
Arab IT Federation, and will try speed up free trade agreements among
Source: Gulf News©