Download publication

Policy Contribution

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 common view of the agreements is overly negative, and point to policy conclusions that could increase regional integration.

By: and Date: November 26, 2018 Topic: Global Economics & Governance

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.

View comments
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

Jan
22
08:00

Rules-based trading system and EU-Australia

At this event the Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham will speak about Australia-EU bilateral trade, the FTA negotiations and the importance of multilateral rules-based trading system

Speakers: Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, André Sapir and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Global Economics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

Feb
8
08:30

The world’s response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative

This event will look at the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative as well as the response from the rest of the world.

Speakers: Alicia García-Herrero, Jean-Francois Di Meglio, Theresa Fallon and Uri Dadush Topic: Global Economics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Policy Contribution

The Belt and Road turns five

Five years after its launch, Michael Baltensperger and Uri Dadush reflect on China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The plan to revive ancient trade routes has the potential to enhance development prospects across the world and in China, but that potential might not be realised because the BRI’s objectives are too broad and ill-defined, and its execution is too often non-transparent, lacking in due diligence and uncoordinated.

By: Michael Baltensperger and Uri Dadush Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: January 10, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Lose-lose scenario for Europe from ongoing China-US negotiations

Without an expectation of a larger market for European exports in the absence of additional opening up by Chinese authorities, European exporters should not enjoy the ongoing China-US negotiations.

By: Alicia García-Herrero Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: January 9, 2019
Read article More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Director’s cut: Wrapping up 2018

With 2018 drawing to a close, and the dawn of 2019 imminent, Bruegel's scholars reflect on the economic policy developments we can expect in the new year – one that brings with it the additional uncertainty of European elections.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation, Global Economics & Governance, Innovation & Competition Policy Date: December 20, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

China’s view of the trade war has changed—and so has its strategy

The truce agreed on by China and the United States at the sidelines of the recent G-20 meeting in Buenos Aires doesn’t really change the picture of the U.S.’s ultimate goal of containing China. The reason is straightforward: The U.S. and China have become strategic competitors and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future, which leaves little room for any long-term settlement of disputes.

By: Alicia García-Herrero Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: December 19, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Brexit: Now for something completely different?

The life of Brexit. After a week of ECJ rulings, delayed votes, Theresa May’s errands across Europe and the vote of no confidence, we review the latest economists’ opinions to try to make sense of what has changed and what hasn’t.

By: Inês Goncalves Raposo Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: December 17, 2018
Read article More by this author

Blog Post

Economic policy challenges in Southern and Eastern Mediterranean

For a long time, southern and eastern Mediterranean countries struggled with serious socio-economic challenges and dysfunctional economic systems and policies. Marek Dabrowski reviews the challenges the region has to face to get out of a low growth trap.

By: Marek Dabrowski Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: December 11, 2018
Read article Download PDF More by this author

External Publication

A new strategy for EU-Turkey energy cooperation

Cooperation over energy and climate issues could be one of the components of the EU-Turkey Positive Agenda. Simone Tagliapietra proposes a new strategy for EU-Turkey energy cooperation, which envisions a shift of focus from gas and electricity to fields such as renewables and nuclear energy.

By: Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate, Global Economics & Governance Date: December 5, 2018
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

Youth unemployment: Common problem, different solutions?

Youth unemployment is a major obstacle to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s human and economic development. In this blog post, Uri Dadush and Maria Demertzis go into the factors behind the its surge.

By: Uri Dadush and Maria Demertzis Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: November 29, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Backstage: Shared prosperity for the EU and north Africa

Bruegel's director Guntram Wolff looks at north Africa's economic growth in the light of the region's trade agreements with the EU, welcoming Karim El Aynaoui and Uri Dadush to the Backstage series on 'The Sound of Economics'.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: November 27, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Is this time different? Reflections on recent emerging-market turbulence

Since the beginning of 2018, currencies of two large emerging-market economies – Argentina and Turkey – suffered from substantial depreciation. Other currencies also recorded losses. Which factors are determining macroeconomic and financial stability in emerging-market economies? And what can be done to prevent a crisis and avoid its economic, social and political costs?

By: Marek Dabrowski Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: November 14, 2018
Load more posts