Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said yesterday that the volume of trade among Arab countries does not exceed eight to ten per cent of the total Arab foreign trade.
Speaking at a meeting of the Economic and Social Council at the preparatory meeting ahead of the Arab League Summit scheduled for Wednesday, Aboul Gheit said the path of "regional integration and economic integration is much less than what is hoped where inter-Arab trade does not exceed the most optimistic estimates of eight to ten per cent."
He pointed out that the Arab region has "one of the tightest protectionist policies in the world and the proliferation of non-tariff barriers."
Inter-Arab movement of individuals, goods and capital alike remains subject to many restrictions, most of which can be alleviated as a first step, in preparation for Arab economic integration.
"We are aware that population growth rates in the region have been among the highest in the world in the past 50 years. More dangerously, the Arab countries are undergoing a demographic boom that makes them more youthful than other societies."
He explained that, as a result, Arab societies suffer from youth unemployment, which should be a source of concern for all of us.
Aboul Gheit said 29 per cent of young people remain unemployed. The UN estimates that the world needs 60 million jobs over the next decade.