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This paper discusses multilateral, bilateral and regional trade liberalization arrangements, and describes how Arab countries are coping with an increasingly open global trading system.

It also attempts to investigate the consequences of the Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun for trade liberalization in the Arab World and how to better integrate Arab countries individually and collectively into the global trading system. It also examines the post-Cancun situation in Arab countries and their approach to WTO negotiations.

In addition, the paper analyzes existing regional, sub regional and bilateral trade agreements among Arab countries. Member states are not benefiting from these trade agreements because South-South agreements are improperly implemented and North-South agreements are biased in favor of the North. For intra-Arab trade to increase markedly the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA) needs to be revitalized, to expand into services and to be complemented by a rules-based system designed specially to enhance trade. There follows a discussion on the role of the international community in bringing the Arab World into the multilateral trading system. Such incorporation requires technical and financial support for Arab internal reform programs. Also, the region’s main trading partners need to exhibit a true commitment to the Doha Development Agenda and to re-assess the application of theoretical, market access for Arab exports.

Finally this paper discusses the need to offset the short-term costs of trade liberalization, through the provision of compensatory financing and the promotion of inter-regional joint ventures by the international financial institutions.
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