Agricultural trade and rural development in the Middle East and North Africa: recent developments and prospects
Despite petroleum's prominence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), agriculture remains important to most to the region's economies. And more robust and more dynamic agricultural growth could significantly boost sustainable economic growth and rural development in those countries. An appropriate avenue for improving agricultural growth is to expand agricultural exports in MENA countries with appreciable-to-large agricultural sectors and comparative advantage in cereal grains, agricultural raw materials, fruits and vegetables, and many categories of livestock and dairy products. But high levels of protection in many MENA countries, especially for manufactures and some food products, contribute to overvalued exchange rates and a significant bias against agriculture. Trade liberalization and other economic reforms to promote agriculture and improve rural welfare in MENA might be pursued through regional economic cooperation, but should be guided as much as possible by the principles of"open regionalism"- under which trade concessions negotiated between regional trading partners could be extended unconditionally to all trading partners, including trading partners outside the region.
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