Exchange-rate policies and trade in the MENA countries
Compared to the new European members (NEM) and to the new candidate countries, the Middle-East and North African (MENA) countries are a very heterogeneous and fragmented EU frontier. As far as monetary issues are concerned, exchange rate regimes are very different and bilateral exchange rates quite volatile. Moreover, weak trade integration and generalized capital controls constitute major obstacles to economic and financial integration. Existing works yet suggest that anchoring to the euro would undoubtedly be the best exchange-rate strategy for most MENA countries. Monetary integration and trade integration are interdependent. This is especially the case when trade flows are sensitive to the volatility of exchange rates or to movements in relative prices. The objective of this paper is to evaluate the potential of monetary integration in the South Mediterranean area, in a context of trade liberalization and of a strong orientation of trade flows towards the EU. The empirical part of the paper would rely on a gravity equation of trade which would include exchange rates volatility and relative prices, in order to gauge the impact of de facto exchange-rate and monetary conditions on trade integration. The sample of countries is large (OECD, NEM, MENA and Asian countries) in order both to have robust estimates and to investigate whether the MENA countries exhibit a specific sensitivity of trade flows to exchange-rate volatility and exchange-rate misalignments. The impact of the competitiveness of third countries will also be investigated. This latter issue is especially important, though seldom assessed, when it comes to the potential trade-diverting effect of the latest EU enlargement on MENA trade wit the EU. The gravity setting also allows simulating the consequences for the trade of MENA countries of a deeper monetary integration, by comparing the impact on trade of a regional monetary integration and of a euro peg.
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