IPCRI Convenes Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian Conference on Trade Policy

December 15, 1997

In September 1997, IPCRI convened a three-day conference in Eilat for leading Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian economic, legal and policy experts on the subject of regional trade. The participants included experts and officials from Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. During the course of the conference, concrete policy proposals were jointly developed to improve the regulatory structure for encouraging cross-border trade and investment in the Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian economic region. Many of the proposal developed at the conference have subsequently already been implemented.

Since its initiation in 1993 with the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, the peace process has relied upon the expectation that expansion of regional trade and investment will increase employment and stimulate growth of the three national economies most influenced by the peace process (Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority). Such regional economic cooperation can play an essential role in promoting, cementing and expanding peace and development in the Middle East. However, the evolution of cooperative economic policies among Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority during the past four years has been very limited. New economic ties among Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories have not advanced as rapidly as had been hoped. Basic functional structures for the future economic relationship between the three parties have yet to be established.

Numerous contentious issues must be resolved, however, before the regional economies can be opened to increased trade and investment a level playing field and a balanced structure must be established in which equitable and mutually beneficial economic activity can take place. Although economic agreements and understandings have been negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians, the Palestinians and Jordan, and Israel and Jordan, these agreements are all bilateral and mostly provisional. Thus far, no comprehensive, trilateral structure exists for regulating regional trade and cooperation. Additionally, due to a variety of reasons and as a result of unforseen events, most of the trades agreements have yet to be properly and fully implemented.

The Israeli and Palestinian negotiators drafted and signed the Paris Economic Protocol in the spring of 1994, in effect creating a customs union and free trade area linking Israel and the Palestinian territories. However, the introduction of the Kingdom of Jordan since its peace with Israel, and the need to pursue issues that were left unresolved in Paris or that have proved difficult to implement, calls for a comprehensive, trilateral effort to establish a clear basis for facilitating cross-border trade and investment flows in the region.

After decades of conflict and suffering, it is only through the use of the peace accords to create mutually beneficial economic cooperation that the peace process may ultimately be anchored in broad popular support. There is still an historic window of political opportunity in which it is possible to create a structure which will enable such constructive interdependence to develop. Such interdependence will create within each nation vested interests that will press for continued openness and progress towards peace and regional stability. In order to take advantage of this opportunity, initiatives must be developed to build consensus among regional actors on the policies that must be collectively implemented in order to create a fair, lasting and beneficial basis for economic cooperation. IPCRI's work in this area brings together individuals who are capable of initiating and sustaining such a process, under the umbrella of a unique cooperative arrangement. IPCRI will continue to promote trust and professional collaboration in developing concrete proposals for encouraging the expansion of mutually beneficial intra-regional trade and investment flows.

Conference Participants

Israelis

Gabi Bar
Michael Jungreis
Hillel Adiri
Mandy Barak
Michaela Oren
Ezra Sadan
Simcha Bahiri
Yossi Barnai
Naftali Moser
Ministry of Trade and Industry
Ministry of Finance
Ministry of Agriculture
Federation of Chambers of Commerce
Israel Standards Institute
Economist
Economist
Israel Export Institute
Tride Foundation

Palestinians

Nasser Tahboub
Mahmoud Abu Samra
Hisham Dasouqi
Samir Huleileh
Hanna Siniora
Ministry of Finance
Ministry of Agriculture
Palestinian National Security
Businessman
Small and Medium Business Association

Jordanians

Muhsen Makhamreh
Elias Farraj
Omar Salah
Ghassan Omet
Mahmoud Najdawi
Mazen Khalaf
University of Jordan
Investment Promotion Corporation
Businessman
University of Jordan
Ministry of Agriculture
Jordanian Embassy, Tel Aviv

Foreign Participants

Hanspeter Tschaeni
Johannes Gerster
Henning Niederhoof
Heike Gruenwald
STIMENA
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung

IPCRI

Gershon Baskin
Zakaria al Qaq