9 November 2012

North Africa: Partners Focus On Economic Growth in Arab Transition Nations

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Washington — The Deauville Partnership with Arab Countries in Transition met in London November 1 at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to discuss the development and promotion of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the transition countries of Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Jordan.

At the London meeting, Yemen joined the discussion as a new country in transition within the Deauville Partnership.

The Deauville Partnership with Arab Countries in Transition, formed in the aftermath of the Arab Spring in 2011, includes Group of Eight (G8) members Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States; the European Union; the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); multilateral development banks; and regional partners Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

The G8, at the 2012 Camp David Summit in May, and other partners at the United Nations General Assembly Deauville Partnership Foreign Ministerial in September, identified the development and growth of small- and medium-sized enterprises as critical steps toward economic reform, employment stability, and prosperity in the Middle East-North Africa region.

In London, transition countries, in consultation with experts from OECD and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), developed country-specific, near-term action plans to foster SME growth, improve job creation and increase economic development.

Following the transition countries' presentations of their action plans in London, partners will continue to collaborate, in particular with multilateral institutions, to provide functional expertise and technical assistance, the U.S. Department of State said.

Given challenges related to reform of the regulatory environment, market access, and access to finance, these institutions and G8 and regional partners will help structure arrangements that give current and prospective business owners a stable operating environment, useful advice and support to start, grow, and sustain their businesses, the department added.

Work at the Deauville Partnership meetings in London to support the development of SMEs will be further promoted at the Forum for the Future Ministerial to be held in Tunis, Tunisia, December 12-13. The forum will bring together the G8, regional governments, civil society and the private sector to discuss specific ways to help improve the SME environment throughout the Middle East and North Africa region, drawing on the progress and commitments made in London.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, at a foreign ministers meeting in September on the partnership, said, "This is a partnership conceived in optimism, but built to take on the hard realities of long and difficult transitions."

Clinton at that meeting also described why the partners are focusing on small- and medium-sized enterprises. "We are zeroing in on small- and medium-sized enterprises because they are the growth engines in any economy. They create the bulk of new jobs and they spread wealth more broadly through more communities," she said. "And when people have the opportunity to unleash their talents and create something of their own, they are more invested in their communities, their countries, and their new democracies."

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