Seeing the rise of powerful economic blocks across much of the globe injects a anote of urgency into the debate about creating a wrokable and powerful Arab Common Market. The issue is raised repeatedly at Arab and regional conferencees, but the idea still remains just ink on paper.
We in the Arab world cannot iognore what is happening around us. We are part of the world economy that is in a continuing state of evolution. New technologies, new patterns of trade, shifts in global power and greater accountability of nation states to the World Trade Organisation make it imoperative that we, as Arabs, face these challenges and dangers together, brother woith brother, united by our common cultural heritage, our spiritual strength and cohesion drawn from our Islkamic heritage anbd beliefs.
But this currently is not the case. Why is it that Arab nation states cannot see that by not jpining together to form an Arab Common Market they are betraying their people and constraining their future? The economic muscle of powerful trading blocks like the European Union, The North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement and the Asian trade block, ASEAN, will ensure that we as Arabs have little say abnd become isolated, leaving us unable to influence how the world economy will be run in the 21st century.
Time is no longer on our side. We need action now, if the Arab nation is not to be sidelined and marginalised. We cannot afford to be ignored in world trade policies, because with the rising young population in all Arab states, there is a compelling demand for development to meet the demand for jobs and stability. We as Arabs must utilise our common resources and common interests and act together, in order to have a decisive influence on trade policies that reach deep into the heart of our individual economies.
Saying we need a common market is easy. Creating one is not. But a start must be made, and while it is prudfent to study other models we should not try to copy them. Each region has evolved its own structure to fit its own unique set of circumstances. We must do the same.
What we need is not a grand sweeping idealistic plan. These we have already in abundance under the heading of Arab unity. What we need is a pragmatic programme to recognise and put aside these areas of economic and trade policy where there is little hope of common agreement and, instead, identify and build up those areas where there is real common interest, that stands a chance of achieveing common agreement on policy.
For instance, we could create within the framework of the League of Arab States common policies on agriculture, energy, and water use and the harmonising of tarriffs. These are closely inter-related in terms of economic development; each of them has a special application to the condiitons of every Arab country. Therefore, there is, in each of these sectors, a great potential for cooperation among all Arab states.
These steps represent practical building blocks from which to build an effectrive Arab Common Market.
They may seem modest steps forward when judged against the hopes for Arab unity born over a generation ago; but we need to set objectives which while limited, are significant and valuable, and create a common approach leading to common policies, which are relevant in the world of international economic relations and give us something we lack now - credibility as a single force that can effectively stanbd up for itself on the world stage.