The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 18, 2011
Excerpted by Rawlinsview
Factsheet: Economic Support for the Middle East and North Africa
The countries of the Middle East and North Africa are diverse societies with diverse characteristics and economies. The region of over 400 million people contains a group of countries that export 18 million barrels a day of oil as well as a group that is dependent on oil imports from their neighbors. Saudi Arabia’s $440 billion economy is more than 14 times that of Yemen. What these countries share is untapped potential, that if unlocked could provide broader economic opportunities for their people.
Oil and gas revenues have enriched several countries and enabled them to fund ambitious infrastructure programs. Some of the non-oil exporters attracted more foreign direct investment and achieved an acceleration of economic growth. The pace of economic reform in the region, however, has been uneven and corruption has been a widespread challenge. Despite an abundance of natural resources and impressive potential human capital, economic growth in the region has not been as rapid as in the fast-growing emerging market world, nor have its benefits been widely distributed.
With the majority of the population under the age of 30, and more than 4 million people entering the labor force annually, the demographics of the Middle East and North Africa pose challenges. Unemployment rates are high across the region, particularly among the burgeoning youth population. In Egypt, youth unemployment is estimated at over 30 percent. The ability to address the growing demand for jobs – which was one of the drivers behind the revolution – will require significant structural changes and economic reform.
Develop a framework for trade integration and investment. If you take out oil exports, the MENA region of nearly 400 million people exports about the same amount of goods as does Switzerland, with less than 8 million people. Moreover, regional trade structures are poorly integrated, as MENA sourced just 13 percent of their imports from other countries in the region. Developing Asian countries, in contrast, sourced over 25 percent of their imports from regional partners. The United States will launch a comprehensive Trade and Investment Partnership Initiative in the Middle East and North Africa. We will work with the European Union as we launch step-by-step initiatives that will facilitate more robust trade within the region, build on existing agreements to promote greater integration with U.S. and European markets, and open the door for those countries who adopt high standards of reform and trade liberalization to construct a regional trade arrangement.
Find text of the complete document at this link.http://m.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/05/18/factsheet-economic-support-middle-east-and-north-africa