The Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement of 1998 (GAFTA) was established with the aim of achieving greater economic integration between Arab countries. The agreement was signed by 18 member states of the Arab League, including Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.
The GAFTA, which came into effect in 2005, has created a regional free trade area that covers a population of over 400 million people and a combined GDP of over $2 trillion. The agreement aims to eliminate trade barriers and promote commerce and investment between member states, leading to increased economic growth and development in the region.
One of the key objectives of the GAFTA is to establish a customs union between member states. This involves the elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade, as well as the adoption of a common external tariff for goods imported from countries outside the free trade area. The establishment of a customs union is seen as a crucial step in creating a common market and promoting regional integration.
In addition to the customs union, the GAFTA also includes provisions for the liberalization of trade in services, investment, and intellectual property rights. It also provides for the establishment of a dispute resolution mechanism to settle disputes arising from the interpretation or implementation of the agreement.
Despite the potential benefits of the GAFTA, there have been some challenges in its implementation. These include differences in the level of economic development and the competitiveness of member states, as well as political instability in some parts of the region. There have also been concerns about the impact of the agreement on local industries and the potential for it to benefit larger, more developed countries at the expense of smaller, less developed ones.
To address these challenges, the GAFTA member states have been working to promote greater cooperation and integration, including through the establishment of joint ventures and the development of infrastructure projects. The agreement has also been expanded to include new member states, such as Sudan and Palestine.
Overall, the GAFTA represents an important step towards greater economic integration and cooperation between Arab countries. While there are challenges to its implementation, the potential benefits of increased trade and investment in the region are significant and could contribute to greater prosperity for all member states.