Calls grow for Maghreb economic integration

Participants in a recent Tunis conference urged Maghreb states to take a new look at trade barriers and other obstacles to economic development.

By Mona Yahia for Magharebia in Tunis – 24/02/10

Maghreb countries should abandon protectionism in order to boost lagging regional trade, according to participants in a recent conference on economic integration organised by Tunisia’s Foreign Ministry.

The conference on Maghreb Economic Integration, which was held on February 17th to mark the 21st anniversary of the establishment of the Maghreb Union, was attended by high-ranking Tunisian officials, businessmen and professors.

“We must abolish bureaucracy in the Maghreb countries. It hampers … business activities,” said Tunisian businessman Kamel Ben Yaglan. “The barrier is not the Maghreb people, but the bureaucrat.”

Participants acknowledged progress in economic relations among Maghreb countries such as Tunisia and Libya, and reaffirmed their conviction that economic integration is essential.

However, they said that trade among Maghreb countries was still at a low level compared to that in regions such as Latin America and Southeast Asia. According to Mohamed Jamal Alifa of the Tunisian Ministry of Commerce, Tunisian-Libyan trade increased to 1.12 billion dinars in 2009, while trade with Mauritania did not exceed 28.7 million dinars. Foreign investment in the Maghreb, he added, was still negligible… read more

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