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Torbey calls for lowering barriers to EU-MENA trade

Country: Beirut, Lebanon


June 18

BEIRUT: Arab investments in European countries are far larger in size and value than Europe’s investments in the Middle East, Head of the Union of Arab Banks Joseph Torbey told a conference in Paris Friday. He called for measures to facilitate more trade between the eurozone and Arab states.


The remarks came during the conclusion of the Arab-International Banking Summit in Paris.


“In terms of trade relations, Europe was the second largest trading partner of the Arab countries with a share of 25.2 percent of the total Arab trade. European countries accounted for 18 percent of the Arab countries’ exports and 32 percent of their imports by the end of 2016,” Torbey said.


“The volume of Arab commodity exports to Europe is about $143 billion, of which 50 percent is from the Gulf. The volume of goods imports from Europe to the Arab countries was about $234 billion.

“The UAE was the largest Arab country importing European goods, followed by Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Egypt,” Torbey said.

He added Gulf Arab countries have huge investments in Europe in various fields, such as banks, hotels, real estate, energy companies, airlines and others. But European investment in Arab countries is very limited, representing one percent only of total investments of the EU globally.

Torbey said based on recent statistics, the percentage of trade between European countries and the Middle East is still very low.


“In contrast, Arab countries do not occupy a similar position in European foreign trade. European exports to Arab countries account for 4 percent of total European exports. European imports from Arab countries account for only 2.3 percent of total European imports.


We call for efforts to improve trade-offs through free trade agreements that can facilitate the entry of Arab goods into European markets,” Torbey said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 30, 2018, on page 4.