ESCWA, Economic Integration in Western Asia (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985).
This collection of papers from ECWA’s December 1981 Expert Group Meeting on Feasible Forms of Economic Cooperation and Integration in Western Asia includes a useful review of various schemes for Arab economic integration — the Arab Common Market, the Arab Trade Convention and so on — and chapters on inter-Arab trade, labor migration and financial flows.
These opening chapters detail the failure of various schemes for Arab economic integration. The latter half of the book is devoted to finding “a feasible path.” The theme which emerges is one of greatly narrowed expectations. Rather than grand, region-wide plans dependent on good will among the various regimes, the authors advocate more restricted, sub-regional projects directed toward carefully defined economic — as opposed to political — ends. From these will emerge a corps of advocates among mid-level bureaucrats and their economic success will garner support at the grassroots level and thus offset political ill will among the regimes. The joint ventures between Syria and Jordan are cited as examples of this type of cooperation.
The Gulf Cooperation Council receives considerable praise as an example of sub-regional cooperation and integration. Its success is attributed to the similarities of the member states’ economic and political structures — hardly a recommendation, but one takes whatever success one can find. This praise of the GCC stands somewhat at odds with other themes in the book. The authors neglect to note that the GCC was formed more for military and political goals than economic goals; nor do they acknowledge that the GCC is another of the “top-down” approaches “which in the long run are doomed to failure.” Finally, the authors do not consider whether a successful GCC will foster Arab unity or further the regional division of antagonistic oil-producing and non-oil-producing states.