Panel 2f. The International Political Economy of Trade Policy in the Middle East: promoting integration and cooperation?

Chair: Imad El-Anis

Discussant: Dr. Silvia Ferabolli

The Impact of GAFTA: Analysing Economic Integration and Political Cooperation in the Middle East
Imad El-Anis, Nottingham Trent University

Economic underdevelopment and inequality in the Middle East are partly to blame for regional instability, extremism and conflict. Governments have tried to promote economic growth by promoting trade as a way to respond to the domestic and international economic and political challenges they face. This paper examines the impact of trade liberalisation on economic integration and political cooperation in the Middle East. It analyses the political economy of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA) and its impact on member states. This is done by analysing member states’ trade policies; changes in bilateral and multilateral trade within the bloc; and changes in political cooperation between members. A mixed-methodology is used that employs institutionalist methods to explain the trade liberalising mechanisms of GAFTA; quantitative regression, progression and gravity modelling to analyse regional trade since 1980; and coding of qualitative evidence of political cooperation between GAFTA members. The study finds that GAFTA members are primarily motivated by increasing their own economic growth, yet since its implementation GAFTA has had only a limited impact on trade between them. At the same time, however, membership in GAFTA has promoted institutional integration between member states which may lead to more political cooperation.

US Trade Policy to the Middle East: a comparative analysis of US trade policy to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt
Saad Almanaie, King’s College London

This study considers the political economy of trade between the United States and Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. It delineates broader aspects of trade policy by these four states and evaluates whether the United States is following a “one country, one trade policy” approach to signing free trade agreements with Middle Eastern states. The aims of this study are to examine the key features of US trade policy towards the Middle East; to delineate economic, foreign policy and geo-political motives driving the push for free trade agreements (FTAs) between the United States and Middle Eastern states; and to analyse how US trade policy to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are impacting bilateral trade between them. It is demonstrated that the United States is pursuing many of its trade policy goals by encouraging Middle Eastern states to engage in global trade institutions by adhering to some of the Plus-type WTO provisions, eventually cajoling them to liberalize their trade policies to further integrate into the global system. In essence, US trade policy and free trade initiatives are the effective manifestation of strategic considerations in broader US foreign policy towards the Middle East.

An Assessment of the Economic and Political Impacts of the Agadir Agreement: promoting peace and stability in the Middle East and North Africa?
Tarik Oumazzane, Nottingham Trent University

Established in 2004 the Agadir Agreement has been hailed as an example of south-south cooperation between Morocco, Jordan, Tunisia and Egypt. Combing a market of 120 million people and a GDP estimated at 150 billion euros, the Agreement not only aims to promote faster economic integration and cooperation but also intends to consolidate economic liberalisation throughout the Mediterranean region under the broader Barcelona Process. This paper investigates both the economic and political integrative impacts of the Agadir Agreement. It will use a mixed-method approach which will entail some consideration of neo-functionalism (a theory that focuses on the progressive development of integration) and institutionalism (a theory interested in the effects of cross-national comparison of institutions). In doing so, this paper not only examines the governmental interests driving the Agadir Agreement, but also its impact on economic integration and growth, its effect on political cooperation between member states, and its role in promoting peace and stability in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Based on this analysis, the paper offers recommendations to researchers and decision-makers in the MENA region on the importance of understanding the value of regional Free Trade Agreements in promoting economic growth, political cooperation, peace and stability

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