During the last fifteen years, Arab countries have signed a number of Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) and have strived for joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), in an attempt to open up their economies and to integrate in the global market. Furthermore they engaged in the implementation of economic reforms and structural adjustment programs aimed at supporting the establishment of market economies, enhancing the participation of private sector initiatives and promoting export-led growth. This study aims at examining the effects of overlapping RTAs on the member states themselves in view of producing actionable policy suggestions for policymakers in these countries. The emphasis will be on: (1) studying the degree of implementation of the existing agreements and assessing and understanding the reasons behind the gap between implementation of the RTAs and what is stated in such agreements; (2) analyzing the specific deficiencies in implementation and identifying capacity building requirements to enhance capabilities of government officials responsible for implementation; (3) increasing the coherence of domestic economic and regulatory policies with their respective international trade regulations and policies and (4) extending coherence to include modifying existing (or potential) trade agreements so as to maximize economic benefits and to minimize economic costs of overlapping RTAs.
The study is limited to four Arab countries: Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. The choice of these countries is based on their similarities in terms of membership of the WTO, of their engagement in trade policy reforms for more than a decade, and their involvement in several RTAs involving south-south as well as north-south cooperation.
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