ECONOMIC INTEGRATION AND EMPLOYMENT THROUGH TRADE
The Aid for Trade Initiative for Arab States (AfTIAS) is a multi-donor, multi-country and multi-agency programme, aiming to foster Arab trade through enhancing enterprise competitiveness and facilitating trade.
A Historic Opportunity
The Arab region faces today a number of major challenges that have hindered many of the League of Arab States (LAS) member countries’ capacity to reap the benefits of regional and international trade and to achieve regional integration.
The 22 members of the LAS region have the lowest level of intra-regional trade in the world, despite preferential market access. According to COMTRADE database, most countries in the Arab region have the majority of their trade directed to other regions: primarily Asia, EU, Japan and the United States. Less than 7 per cent of the exports of Arab countries are destined to other countries within the Arab region.
However, the volume and share of regional trade has strong potential to rise significantly. A study by the International Trade Centre (ITC) indicates that a further reduction of trade barriers could potentially increase intra-regional trade by 10 per cent and create at least 2 million jobs.
Poverty, knowledge and gender equality are also major challenges in the Arab region. A quarter of the region’s population live below national poverty lines. Whereas, the availability of a highly educated young population is an important asset in these countries, and present a huge opportunity for private sector growth and regional economic cooperation through targeted skill development programs and training in trade related areas.
Furthermore, trade-related technical assistance is vital for improving countries’ abilities in realizing the potential of private sector and employment growths. As a result, abundance of skilled labour makes it easier for enterprises to adopt new technologies that become available through trade openness, integrating skills development in growth and export strategies.