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The Middle East/North Africa Economic Summits and Conferences

Fact Sheet released by the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs,
U.S. Department of State, November 7, 1997

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In November 1996, senior representatives from countries around the world and more than 1,000 international business leaders attended the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) Economic Conference in Cairo, Egypt. This was the third in the series of summits and conferences begun in Casablanca in 1994 and continued in Amman in 1995. Their purpose is to create a strong economic pillar that will help achieve and sustain peace in the Middle East. They emphasize a public-private partnership for economic development and seek ways to foster integration of business executives' views and concerns into government economic decisions, project development and presentation, and investment opportunities.

Along with the political and economic reform goals of the conference come more practical, business-oriented objectives. Participants come from within the region, including Israel, and from outside the region -- with U.S. participation being the largest extra-regional element. An important part of the conference is the opportunities it provides for both formal and informal business match-making.

Accomplishments of Past Conferences

At each of the past gatherings, regional governments, supported by key states from outside the region as well as by the international business community, strengthened their commitment to the regional approach to economic development, with particular emphasis on actions attractive to the business community. The region is increasingly embracing economic reform and market liberalization as governments commit to creating an investor-friendly environment. Countries are also exploring new intra-regional trade agreements to strengthen their investment and import/export bases.

To provide the structure needed to nurture this regional approach to development, past conference participants launched several economic institutions, which are now at different stages of development. Most impressively, the MENABank is getting underway with a transition team active in Cairo, and the Middle East/Mediterranean Travel and Tourism Association (MEMTTA) is very active in promoting tourism in the region, arranging training seminars, and promoting private sector development.

The plenary sessions at Amman and Cairo -- devoted to trade and industry, infrastructure, investment and finance, and the economic environment -- stressed the need for states in the region to adopt reform strategies, including privatization, to attract investment and spur growth. Regional states presented their plans to achieve these goals, and many announced steps to accelerate their liberalization and restructuring.

Various workshops, thematic discussions, and briefings provided a venue for project presentations, debates on economic themes, and sectoral analyses by regional and international experts. These fora were supplemented by informal contacts, country luncheons, briefings, and numerous negotiations.

The 1997 Doha Economic Conference

The fourth annual MENA Economic Conference will take place in Doha, Qatar, November 16-18, 1997, underscoring the growing and important role the Gulf States are playing in the MENA conference process. The theme of this year‚s event is "Creating a New Private/Public Partnership for Trade and Economic Growth Beyond the Year 2000." As of 2 weeks before the conference start date, more than 800 participants had already registered to attend.

The U.S. Government, as co-chair of the Middle East peace process along with the Russian Federation, will work closely with the organizers of the conference -- the World Economic Forum -- as well as the Qatari Government to ensure that the momentum generated by the Casablanca, Amman, and Cairo gatherings is maintained and strengthened. The U.S. also will continue its close collaboration with the U.S. business community to assure its participation in the public-private partnership.

You may contact the following for additional information:

World Economic Forum Geneva, Switzerland Tel: (41 22) 736 02 43 Fax: (41 22) 786 27 44

Toni Verstandig, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs,
U.S. Department of State

Tel: (202) 647-7170 Fax: (202) 736-4462

Judith Barnett, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Africa and the Near East,
U.S. Department of Commerce

Tel: (202) 482-4925 Fax: (202) 482-6083

[end of document]

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