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Assessment of Trade Policy Trends in the ESCWA Region


With the aim to increase awareness on the latest developments concerning assessment of trade policy trends in member countries, ESCWA is organizing an Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on "Trade Policy Trends in ESCWA Member Countries and Their Respective Implications on Trade and Economic Performance". The Meeting will be held in Beirut, Lebanon, during the period 17-18 December 2008.

Globalization, trade liberalization and regional integration are in the forefront of the issues developing economies have to deal with in tandem with their development objectives and goals. Since the eighties, many developing countries embarked on economic reform and restructuring programmes, led either by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to ease their indebtedness or as a policy choice towards more liberalization and openness. The conclusion of the Uruguay Round, the establishment of the World Trade Organization and the trade related negotiations that followed, have put increased demand on developing countries to further liberalize their economies,  enter into new bilateral and regional trading arrangements and increase their commitments to outside parties with the premise that free trade is conducive to growth.
ESCWA member countries, like other developing countries, have been actively involved in liberalizing their economies since the nineteen eighties. Many of them adopted restructuring and stabilization programs, others opted to liberalize their trade regimes in a step to integrate in the world economy. Most of ESCWA member countries are members of the World Trade Organization and the rest are either in the processes of accession, have gained an observer status or are about to apply for accession. Moreover, most of these countries are being actively involved in the setting up of several regional and bilateral trading arrangements. Often, the objectives of these arrangements are not solely trade related, but extend to political, economic, social, and cultural among others, necessitating the adoption of policy measures, which implicate the development process accordingly. 
During the two-day discussions and deliberations, the EGM will aim to provide a summary of the underlying trends, goals and objectives of the trade policies adopted by the member countries and their implications on trade and economic performance. As such, it becomes pertinent to monitor main trade policy trends in ESCWA member countries and their respective implications.
The EGM aims to address the following issues:  
(1)  Trade policy priorities in ESCWA member countries and future prospects; 
(2) Issues of development concern for the ESCWA member countries implicated by trade policy:
Export promotion and import liberalization and their impact on industrialization and production;
Subsidies; Market access for agricultural and non-agricultural goods; Competitiveness;  Labor and Job creation;
Trade in services.
(3) Opportunities and challenges of the multilateral trading system vis-a-vis bilateral trade agreements.