Economic Integration and Peace

July 18, 2008 at 4:40 pm | Posted in Integration, Peace Process | Leave a comment

Today Israel ranks as one of the world’s most globalized economies, making it unique in the Middle East. It was among the first countries to establish free trade agreements with the United States and European Union, and today has robust commercial ties with many other states around the world. Israel’s place in the global economy was achieved because of the country’s belief in the integration of the world community and the need to forge international economic cooperation for the mutual benefit of all society. Israel’s positive integration creates a stark contrast to the Middle East, where trade is all too rare.

In the recent years the southeast region of the U.S. has grown rapidly and attracted large scale international investment. Many Israeli companies have discovered the region’s potential and started moving their North American headquarters to the area, creating jobs and strengthening the local economy.

Israel is also expanding its relationship with Europe. Through the EU-Israel Association Council, an organization headed by Foreign Ministers, which conducts the bilateral relations between the two, Israel and Europe are ushering in a new era in relations, a consequence of nearly a year of extensive effort. As a result of hard work, Israel has increased its participation in European plans and agencies and is now being examined for possible integration into the European single market.

The Israeli economy and society are moving closer to European norms and standards. The competitiveness of Israeli companies in the European market is increasing, primarily in the field of high-tech, and with the signing of a recent aviation agreement, another result of the council’s work, consumers in both Israel and Europe will benefit from lower prices.

Increased trade and cooperation have improved Israel’s relations with Europe and with the EU in recent years. Israel has enjoyed a significant improvement in its diplomatic relations with most European states, as well as with EU institutions, which is expressed, among other ways, in the many visits to Israel paid by European leaders.

Israel and Europe have reached a number of important agreements over the past year, including: an upgrade in the diplomatic-strategic dialogue between Israel and the EU; Israel’s new membership to the official EU program for research and development; and trade liberalization in the field of agriculture. A framework agreement has been signed for Israel to enter EU programs, a high-level business dialogue has been established between the Israeli and European business communities, and negotiations on free trade in the financial services sector are about to begin.

Whilst Israel celebrates its economic integration into the European Union and the American Southeast, it must never forget its neighbors in the Middle East. It is a tragic fact that trade in the Middle East is rare and minimal, not just between the Arab states and Israel, but even between the Arab countries themselves. Trade has the power to bring countries closer together, and the globally vital Middle Eastern region should not be an exception. Cooperation and integration have proven themselves to be major vehicles for peace around the world and should be brought to the Middle East, a region deeply in need of their pacific effects.

Article appeared in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on July 4th, 2008

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