Policy brief

Assessing the European Union’s North Africa trade agreements

In this Policy Contribution, the authors provide an economic assessment of the trade agreements between the EU and North Africa. They argue that the c

Publishing date
26 November 2018

This paper was produced with the financial support of Compagnia di San Paolo.

The trade agreements that the European Union has with North African countries – with Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia – are often seen as having delivered disappointing results since they came into force during the 2000s. The four North African countries have seen insufficient growth in their exports to the EU, and have undergone only limited diversification. In the meantime, the EU’s exports to North Africa have grown quite rapidly.

Economic growth in North Africa has been well short of what is needed to reduce chronic under-employment, especially of young people. The EU trade agreements with North Africa could generate additional, large benefits if they either directly led to or at least incentivised behind-the-border reforms to make the North African countries more competitive in international markets. Though this reform is the responsibility of the governments of North African countries, the EU could provide stronger incentives to improve the business environment. Meanwhile, in agriculture, were the North African countries able to compete with the EU on an even playing field, agriculture’s share of domestic value-added would almost certainly be significantly larger and rural poverty correspondingly lower than at present.

Nevertheless, the agreements have been judged too harshly. They helped generate large amounts of trade, though not enough was done on the domestic front to derive the maximum benefit from them. Moreover, the domestic and international environment has been unfavourable, impeding North Africa’s progress. Over much of the relevant period, the EU grew sluggishly, and North African countries faced sharply increasing competition on European markets from China and the eastern Europe countries that joined the EU in 2004 and after. Generally, countries that acceded to the EU have done much better than the countries of North Africa. While the countries of North Africa are not EU candidates, there is much that they and the EU can learn from the example of the former accession countries in terms of how a new generation of trade agreements between the EU and North Africa could be deeper and more comprehensive than currently, and could be accompanied by increased aid for trade.

About the authors

  • Uri Dadush

    Uri Dadush is a non-resident scholar at Bruegel, based in Washington, DC and a Senior Fellow at the Policy Center for the New South in Rabat, Morocco. He is also Principal of Economic Policy International, LLC, providing consulting services to international organizations as well as corporations. He teaches international trade policy at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland and a course on globalization and development in the executive education program of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC) and the Mohammed VI Polytechnic. He is a co-chair of the Trade, Investment and Globalization Task-Force of the T20. He was Vice-Chair of the Global Agenda Council on Trade and Investment at the World Economic Forum. His books include “WTO Accessions and Trade Multilateralism” (with Chiedu Osakwe, co-editor), “Juggernaut: How Emerging Markets Are Transforming Globalization” (with William Shaw), “Inequality in America” (with Kemal Dervis and others), “Currency Wars” (with Vera Eidelman, co-editor) and “Paradigm Lost: The Euro in Crisis”.

    Dadush was previously Director of the International Economics Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Director of International Trade, as well as Director of Economic Policy, and Director of the Development Prospects Group at the World Bank. Based previously in London, Brussels, and Milan, he spent 15 years in the private sector, where he was President of the Economist Intelligence Unit, Group Vice President of Data Resources, Inc., and a consultant with Mc Kinsey and Co. His columns have appeared in the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Il Sole 24 Ore, and L’Espresso. He has a B.A. and M.A. in Economics from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a Ph.D. in Business Economics from Harvard University.

  • Yana Myachenkova

    Yana Myachenkova, a Russian citizen, works as a Research Assistant at Bruegel. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, with an exchange program at the Erasmus School of Economics and visiting studies at UCLA, and a Master in Economic Theory and Econometrics from the Toulouse School of Economics (Université Toulouse 1 Capitole).

    Both Yana’s bachelor and master theses focused on answering the central questions of contract theory, using some insights from psychology and examining such topics as the emergence of the bonus culture.

    Her research interests lie in the areas of applied microeconomics. Yana is primarily interested in such research fields as Regulation, Incentives, Behavioral and Experimental Economics, Contract Theory and Industrial Organization.

    She is fluent in Russian and English, and has basic knowledge of French.

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