The 42 member countries of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) convened today by videoconference for the 11th Trade Ministerial Conference to launch three new trade and investment initiatives. They also called for the strengthening of trade ties in the Euro-Mediterranean area as a crucial element for the regional economic recovery.
The UfM Trade Ministerial Conference stressed the importance of ensuring that Mediterranean partners can take full advantage of opening markets. The newly launched trade and investment initiatives supported by the EU and implemented by partner organisations – the International Trade Centre, the International Labour Organization and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development – will contribute to that aim. Worth a total of €11 million, they will strengthen the impact of trade and investment on job creation in the Southern Mediterranean and encourage inclusive economic development.
The Ministerial Conference was held under the UfM Co-Presidency of Mr Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade, and Eng. Maha Ali, Jordanian Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply, in the presence of Mr Nasser Kamel, UfM Secretary-General.
Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis stated: “The Mediterranean region has been well-known throughout history for its thriving trade in knowledge and goods. I am pleased to see that the current pandemic did not stop this, and that we agree that vibrant regional trade can play a vital role in economic recovery in the EU and the broader Euro-Mediterranean region. That is why we need to continue working on deepening our engagement with our partners in the region. I strongly encourage businesses from both the Northern and Southern shores of the Mediterranean to take greater advantage of the opportunities that this regional trade, investment and economic partnership provides.”
Jordanian Minister Eng. Maha Ali stated: “This important Ministerial conference coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Barcelona Process of Euro-Mediterranean partnership, which laid the foundation for the formalisation of the Union for the Mediterranean and introduced a long-term regional framework for cooperation under the North-South Co-Presidency. The unprecedented social and economic vulnerabilities in the region aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic calls more than ever for solidarity and effective cooperation addressing compelling issues with special attention to the Southern shore of the Mediterranean. Jordan stands ready as Co-President of the UfM to work with the EU and the Southern Mediterranean countries to promote regional sustainable development under the Union for the Mediterranean framework.”
UfM Secretary-General Nasser Kamel said: “The current pandemic has led to far-reaching global disruptions of value-chains, contraction of trade and investment flows. Any ‘new normal’ in which enhanced trade and economic integration do not assume protagonism would not stand up to the legitimate aspirations of people on both shores of the Mediterranean. Today’s meeting demonstrates the common will of 42 countries to work together in these areas and illustrates the UfM’s action-driven methodology which turns our political mandates into concrete initiatives through a multi-partner regional dialogue.”
There have been several developments in bilateral trade relations between the UfM Member States since the last UfM Trade Ministerial Conference in March 2018, including the immense disruption brought about by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the pandemic and rising protectionism in the world, trade in the Euro-Mediterranean region remained broadly open. The UfM Trade Ministers called for resisting protectionism and developing additional initiatives to further facilitate and increase trade and investment flows.
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Barcelona Process, Ministers welcomed progress made in implementing the eight Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreements, and called for their modernisation: to extend their scope and deepen commitments on key rules of trade policy. They also encouraged progress to increase trade integration between South Mediterranean partners, and welcomed the accession of Lebanon and Palestine to the Agadir Agreement, a trade agreement between Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.
In addition, the Ministers called for more collaboration in the area of WTO reform, including on updating rules to ensure a level playing field, and on finding a solution to the current impasse of the Appellate Body. This will serve to preserve the rules-based multilateral system, which protects the interests of all WTO Members.
Ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to promote a mutually supportive relationship between trade and investment and sustainable development, and raised the importance of relevant multilateral initiatives towards sustainable development. They highlighted that urgent action needs to be taken, including at regional level, to combat climate change and to effectively implement international climate agreements, such as the Paris Agreement.
Ministers welcomed the organisation of the UfM Trade and Investment Forum on 12 November 2020, and expected the results of this Ministerial Conference to be implemented by the UfM Trade Senior Officials Meetings, as well as in various technical working groups, ahead of the next UfM Trade Ministerial Meeting planned for 2022.
 The Barcelona Process or Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (Euromed) started in 1995 with the Barcelona Euro-Mediterranean Conference. It was organised by the EU to strengthen its relations with the countries in the Mashriq and Maghreb regions. The partnership laid the foundations for what came to be the Union for the Mediterranean.