January 12, 2007
Pan-Arab Trade: Never Missing an Occasion to Miss...
Rather than go on with the stunningly depressing issues of American blundering about in the MENA region and environs, I am off a mood to poke a stick in the eye of Pan-Arab cooperation, or perhaps better, Pan-Arab whinging on about cooperation without any real intention to cooperate.
The underlying article here is in French, from the Moroccan business journal, La Vie Eco, a decent enough publication, and discusses the problems that several much ballyhooed (or feared, depending on the perspective) free trade agreements between the Arab Med and generally Arab states have gone nowhere. Amusingly I recalled the head of Al Ahram al Iqtissadi telling me several years ago that all these agreements would go right into the freezer. Sadly that appears to be the case.
The why of the rather predictable fate of these efforts is perhaps a more interesting question than the actual failure, as the failure of cooperation - even on the relatively limited sub-regional scale - often surprises, but worse than surprises, is a positive drag on the region.
Perhaps a quick reflexion, then. As the article notes, in theory in force, in practice "technically in applicable as none of the member states of the Agadir accord have actually taken the practical steps to do so re customs rules, etc.
Why? Well, at the simplest level, the governments, none of which have particularly deep stability and all of which face several social pressure in the area of economic opportunity, negotiated and signed the agreements with little intention of making much effort to enable them. Feel-good showmanship to play to the naive reflexes of the Arab publics that like to feel that something Ummah-ish is being done (but due to their extreme parochialism and naivete, rarely understand the overall costs and benefits of actually following through on the naive, often superficial emotional attachment to the Pan-Islamic concept - in the Arab Middle East this is usually taken as synonymous with Arabs I would add).
When it comes time for implementation, then the real interests come out - sadly real interests that were not dealt with during the "negotiations" nor properly analyzed when the political showman ship was being negotiated, well arranged.
These habits are in part something rooted in old Arab culture that valued the word over the deed, but to place it entirely in this context is abusive and in many ways ahistorical. Rather, I rather feel that much of the reliance on political theatre with little to no real substance is largely tied to the lack of substantive political legitimacy for most of the regimes - or their fragility even where substantive domestic legitimacy does exist on some level (e.g. Morocco in large part). Given a lack of real engagement with the concerned interest groups - even on the elite level - and a perceived (and I think actual) need to play to grand gestures to attempt to keep illusions going, initiatives within region that are not driven by outside interests continuously fall flat given the hollowness of the political establishments. Oddly, this contributes to their further hollowness, as the vast chasm between word and deed exceeds tolerable levels, and the clear reality that only foreign (non-Arab / Muslim) intiatives go forward (ironically because they are indeed foreign, and not dependent on romantic, naive and ultimately magically conceived Ummah-hood) further contributes to the lack of legitimacy.
Of course, this entire, brief reflexion ignores the question of whether the free trade agreements were good ideas. I assume as a baseline that they were, in general, although clearly the Agadir accord was, well, not terribly well thought through in some aspects.
Sadly, the habits of non-performance on the MENA Arab side carry over into dealings with Europe and the US. It is sadly amusing to find, as in the case of the Moroccan FTA with the US, the Moroccans being caught utterly flat-footed by the Americans expectation that, well, yes, you have to implement the bloody agreement and that means actually putting in place the practical measures to implement and not merely engaging in public rhetorical flourishes, while leaving established interests untouched.
Of course, the US - Moroccan FTA, for all that American officialdom in region never ceases to promote it, looks rather like a dud, but that's not terribly surprising. The Jordanian one looked rather similar.
Posted by The Lounsbury at January 12, 2007 07:48 PM
Filed Under: Economic Policy
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D’abord, l’importateur tunisien doit se procurer un certificat d’importation. Ce document est difficilement délivré par les autorités tunisiennes.
This is not a problem in the legal or administrative frame. Importers go through an informal and unofficial screening where the potential profit of their operations are assessed. If the potential profit is deemed important enough, the certificate isn't delivered and the business is taken over by the nomenklatura (or it is delivered given enough baksheesh to the nomenklatura). Any agreement with Tunisia which wants to be realistic has to take this into account as a parameter of how things will work. In fact, any agreement with any Arab country has to take unwritten processes into account at least as much as written ones.
l’élaboration d’une liste de produits dits sensibles qui seront écartés du champ d’application de l’accord
Someone have them read Ricardo please.
Well, I would include the nomenklatura problem you cite in the issue of non-tariff bariers, a legal & administrative barrier tied to corruption.
But this is merely playing with definitions, the core of the issue is the trade barriers are displaced a level.
In fact, any agreement with any Arab country has to take unwritten processes into account at least as much as written ones
Indeed. Well, for all markets, and above all emerging markets where the informal process often trumps the formal process.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 13, 2007 08:31 AM