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The Arab League has a long history of trying to foster trade and economic cooperation among its member states, with several initiatives taken in the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1981, an agreement to facilitate and promote inter-Arab trade was signed, but to little effect.

In February 1997, the League decided to create an Arab Free Trade Area, also known as the Greater Arab Free Trade Area or the Pan-Arab Free Trade Area, by 2008. This would be achieved through a 10% reduction in customs fees each year as well as the gradual elimination of trade barriers. Eighteen of the 22 Arab League states signed on to this agreement, which came into force on 1 January 1998.

In March 2001, it was decided to speed up the liberalisation process, and on 1 January 2005 the elimination of most tariffs among the GAFTA members was enforced.

The 17 states that are members of GAFTA are: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Others are in the process of joining.

last update: May 2012
photo: Wiz9999/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

Economy too deserves an Arab Summit
The Great Arab Free Trade Area Agreement (GAFTA) was enforced in January 2005 after a 7-year preparatory transition period. This is the first joint Arab economic action likely to help the Arab countries gain huge profits in line with the regulations of the WTO, the venue absorbing regional economic blocs. Most probably, the results in the first experimental year were not up to the expectations.