Arabs must 'speed up economic integration'
kuwait, February 12, 2010
Arab finance and economy ministers opened a meeting in Kuwait with calls for speeding up economic integration and establishing a customs union by a 2015 target date.
'We must have a working programme with a timetable to implement Arab joint ventures and other economic integration projects,' Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa told the opening ceremony of the one-day meeting on Thursday.
Moussa said that inter-Arab trade 'represents the weakest field in Arab economic integration efforts,' but added that there had been successes in the areas of investment and capital transfer.
Kuwaiti Finance Minister Mustafa Al Shamali told the meeting that 'so far, achievements have been well below ambitions and expectations.'
Iraqi Trade Minister Safaa Al Deen Al Safi said 'Arab economic integration has become an urgent necessity dictated by the fallout of the global economic crisis,' and called for revision of the integration mechanisms.
Arab leaders held their first ever economic summit in Kuwait in January last year and adopted a number of resolutions calling for the speeding up of joint projects with the goal of forming a common market in 2020.
The Arab ministers meeting in Kuwait are to discuss ways to implement those resolutions ahead of a second economic summit in Egypt early next year, Moussa said.
The Arab leaders also launched a $2 billion Arab economic development fund to provide assistance to small and medium-size projects in poor Arab countries.
Moussa said that pledges to the fund have exceeded the $1bn mark, which enables the fund to start operations, and urged Arab countries to make contributions.
Arab countries launched the Pan-Arab Free Trade Area about four years ago but it did little to boost commerce among members states.
The customs union is planned to be completed in 2015 and Moussa urged Arab countries to make a timetable for implementation.
The ministers will also study measures to implement Arab programmes for reducing unemployment and poverty, which runs as high as 40 per cent in at least seven Arab nations.