Mr. Draganov noted that many countries in the Middle East and North Africa had negotiated in Regional Trade Agreements in recent years. Some of these agreements - particularly those with outside partners - have resulted in significant increases in export volume. However, Mr. Draganov added that despite the efforts at integration, the proportion of intra-regional trade in the Arab region remains low when compared to other regions.
In order to expand trade among the countries of the region, Mr. Draganov argued that the Regional Trade Agreements among Arab countries should expand their scope beyond merely lowering tariffs, and also cover trade and investment facilitation, as well as technical and economic cooperation. In particular, he argued that priority attention should be given to streamlining customs procedures and modernizing customs infrastructure, so as to reduce the time and cost involved in moving goods across borders. The countries of the region should also give attention to addressing Non-Tariff Barriers, whose restrictive effect on trade often far exceeds that of tariffs. In this context, Mr. Draganov pointed to the benefits of regulatory harmonization and cooperation, including through mutual recognition and equivalence, in minimizing the distortionary effects of Non-Tariff Barriers. Finally, Mr. Draganov, noted that the countries of the region could explore closer economic and technical cooperation, particularly with regards to building common infrastructure and transport networks, and supporting entrepreneurship.
The Panel Session entitled "Trade and Economic Integration in a Changing Middle-East and North Africa: Enhancing Value-Added Production, Trade Flows and Development" was organized by UNDP and the Islamic Development Bank.