Forum to enhance role of private sector in Arab economic integration

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CAIRO: In an initiative to increase the role of the private sector in Arab economic integration, CEOs and presidents representing 27 of the Arab region’s largest cross border companies met Monday in a forum organized by Egypt’s Minister of Trade and Industry and Acting Minister of Investment Rachid Mohamed Rachid.

The aim of the forum, according to a statement on the Ministry of Trade’s website, was to develop a vision and a host of mechanisms to accelerate and increase joint Arab investments as well as inter-Arab trade and lay the groundwork for leaders who will participate in the upcoming economic summit in Sharm El-Sheikh on Jan. 19.

Rachid said that through discussion of the political, legislative and regulatory environment in attempt to develop a realistic framework for cooperation, the participants agreed to the formulation of an Arab Advisory Council to transmit private sector concerns and suggestions at the Sharm El-Sheikh summit.

Speaking about the potential of the forum, Rachid pointed out that it could have a major influence, as the forum included Arab businesses with significant investments in the Arab region, estimated at more than $500 billion.

“The size of the pan-Arab investment amounted to $2 billion 10 years ago and rose to $20 billion in recent years, mainly due to the growing role of the private sector, which is characterized by its ability to overcome the barrier of geographical boundaries,” he added.

According to the Ministry of Trade’s statement, the participants echoed Rachid’s optimism about the forum.

Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties said that the initiative is a good opportunity for the private sector to participate in decision-making process saying that this is the beginning of an important and urgent “greater role” for Arab businesses.

Alabbar added that the high rates of growth of private sector have had a positive, direct impact on the performance of the Arab economies in general which in turn benefits Arab citizens.

CEO of EFG-Hermes, Yasser El Mallawany said that he hoped the initiative could contribute to overcoming obstacles standing in the way of attracting Arab capital to Arab countries and encouraging a more attractive and secure investment environment as well as promote the flow of foreign capital to the Arab region.

Naguib Sawiris, chairman of Orascom Telecom Holding, called for the establishment of a regional Arab committee for arbitration in investment which would resolve economic disputes that may arise between investors and governments. The committee would have the legislative power to rule on controversial issues and ensure the protection of Arab investments in the Arab countries.

Sawiris added that the private sector could finally achieve the vision of Arab integration advocated by Arab governments for decades saying that it would be easier through economic relations involving a convergence of common economic and business objectives, as opposed to political relations with different and sometimes opposing political visions and objectives.


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