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Regional Economic Development Working Group

This group addresses the issues of infrastructure, trade, finance and tourism development in the region, including the West Bank and Gaza. In November 1993, the working group adopted the Copenhagen Action Plan, comprising 35 projects in various fields: communications, transportation, energy, tourism, agriculture, financial markets and investment, trade, training, regional networks and bibliography.

The round of talks held at Rabat in June 1994 centered around two major subjects: advancing the implementation of the Copenhagen Action Plan; and establishing a Monitoring Committee as a tool to formulate a regional agenda and set priorities for the working group.

The tasks of the Monitoring Committee were defined as follows

  • To monitor the implementation of the Copenhagen Action Plan;
  • To organize expert meetings and subcommittees, as required, in the various fields of regional economic cooperation
  • To identify and promote priority projects to be presented to the working group.
It was agreed that the Monitoring Committee would strive:

  • to encourage the free movement of people, goods, services, capital and information among the partners in the region;
  • to stimulate economic development and to reduce regional economic disparities;
  • to promote the region's integration in global markets
  • to fully exploit respective advantages by promoting regional trade, facilitating investment and developing infrastructure.
The Monitoring Committee represents a qualitative leap in the institutionalization of the regional dialogue. With the establishment of this committee, the principle of regional cooperation has been anchored in specific subcommittees in the different fields of economic activity.

The working group heard progress reports on specific projects in the areas of transportation (highway infrastructure, railways and ports, motor transportation and civil aviation); energy (linking the electricity grids of Israel, the autonomy, Egypt and Jordan, and the alternatives of a Mediterranean-Dead Sea or Red Sea-Dead Sea hydroelectric project); tourism (regional consultation, cooperation and priorities); agriculture (veterinary services and plant protection); finance (financial markets and stock exchanges, training of banking personnel in the autonomy); regional trade; and training programs.

The Middle East-Mediterranean Travel and Tourist Association (MEMTTA) was initialed in Casablanca in September 1995.

Parallel with these developments, the World Bank is considering holding a regional workshop to study ways to integrate the private sector in infrastructure projects.

First Middle East/North Africa Economic Summit - Casablanca
Oct 30 - Nov 1, 1994

At the invitation of King Hassan II of Morocco and with the support and endorsement of Presidents Bill Clinton of the United States and Boris Yeltsin of the Russian Federation, the representatives of 61 countries and 1,114 business leaders from all regions of the world gathered for a Middle East/North Africa Economic Summit in Casablanca from October 30 to November 1, 1994. Among the accomplishments of the conference were:

  1. the endorsement of the decision by the Council for Cooperation of the Gulf States to ignore the secondary and tertiary aspects of the Arab boycott;
  2. the move towards ending the primary boycott;
  3. an agreement to establish four regional centers:

    1. a Middle East and North Africa Development Bank,
    2. a Tourist Board to facilitate tourism,
    3. a regional Chamber of Commerce and Business Council to facilitate intra-regional trade relations, and
    4. a Steering Committee charged with following up all issues raised at the conference.

Second Middle East/North Africa Economic Summit - Amman
October 29-31, 1995

On October 29-31, 1995, the second Middle East/ North Africa Economic Summit was held in Amman.

The goals of the Summit were to facilitate the expansion of private sector investment in the region, to cement a public-private partnership which will ensure that end, and to work to enhance regional cooperation and development.

In this spirit, business leaders were able to conclude a number of significant commercial and business transactions at the Summit that will help augment the productive capacity of the region and contribute to its broad-based economic development. These ventures involved projects in the fields of tourism, telecommunications, and transportation. Reflecting this public-private partnership, a number of these ventures will benefit from government guarantees, technical assistance, and other support from the international community.

As a result of negotiations over the past year on institutional arrangements called for in the Casablanca Declaration which would help underpin the peace process, the following agreements have been reached:

  • A Bank for Economic Cooperation and Development in the Middle East and North Africa to be established in Cairo, to promote development of the private sector, support regional infrastructure projects, and provide a Forum to promote regional economic cooperation.

  • The establishment of a Regional Tourism Board, the Middle East- Mediterranean Travel and Tourism Association (MEMTTA), to facilitate tourism and promote the region as a unique and attractive tourist destination.

  • The establishment of a Regional Business Council to promote cooperation and trade among the private sectors of the countries of the region.

  • The formal inauguration of the Economic Summit Executive Secretariat, located in Rabat, which is working to advance the public-private partnership, promote contacts, share data, and foster private sector investment in the region.

As a complement to the regional institutions called for at Casablanca, the Steering Group of the Multilateral Peace Negotiations has decided to establish the REDWG Monitoring Committee Secretariat as a permanent regional economic institution to be based in Amman, to promote and strengthen regional economic cooperation in the Middle East and North Africa.

The participants at the Summit expressed their intention to meet again next year for a third annual Middle East/ North Africa Economic Summit in Cairo.

Third Middle East/North Africa Economic Summit - Cairo
November 12-14, 1996

As in the previous two conferences, the Cairo MENA summit presented businessmen from the Arab countries, Israel, Western Europe, North America and other parts of the world with an excellent opportunity to meet, form professional and personal connections, establish business contacts and launch specific ventures.

Fourth Middle East/North Africa Economic Summit - Doha
November 16-18, 1997

The fourth MENA Conference was held in Doha, Qatar, with the participation of businessmen, state officials and journalists.

One of the concrete results of this conference was the signing of an agreement between Israel and Jordan on the establishment of the Irbid Qualifying Industrial Zone.

The MENA conferences are an integral part of the peace process. Even if no progress occurs in other aspects of the process, there is no justification for failing to advance in its non-political spheres. Like all regional activities, participation in this conference reflects joint interests, rather than private ones, and addresses the economic interests of all participants. This is made evident by the businesslike atmosphere of the conferences and by the numerous multi-national corporations and leading international businessmen who chose to take part in them.

In a process of transition from conflict to reconciliation, it is of great importance that normal ties be established between countries and peoples in a variety of areas (economic, social, "People-to-People" projects and others).

Source: Israeli Foreign Ministry