Political cooperation within the Maghreb is most effectively achieved through the Arab League, and to a lesser extent the African Union. In 1989, the Arab Maghreb Union was established to promote cooperation between member states and economic integration in a common market, but it has had little tangible effects due to political infighting. The Great Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA), which includes all Maghreb states except Mauritania, has been effective in facilitating free movement of industrial and agricultural commodities between its members. Additionally, European Union included the same Maghreb states in the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, which decreases barriers to trade, services, and investment between the EU. Given the larger growth potential in the Maghreb market many experts suggest that the countries should focus on intra-regional trade. The trade volumes in the region are remarkably low, ranging from a surplus of 3.9 billion U.S. dollars in Libya to minus 0.65 billion U.S. dollars in Mauritania to minus 19.59 billion U.S. dollars in Morocco.
A focus of each member’s government is to increase GDP by providing more employment opportunities, encouraging local and foreign investment, and reducing illiteracy. The countries with the highest GDP in the Maghreb region are Algeria and Morocco. With the exception of Morocco, the inflation rate in the rest of the Maghreb region is quite high, especially in Libya, which is battling a still ongoing crisis, as social and political instability led to the Libyan Civil War. This conflict, caused by the internationally-backed outster of Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, has essentially left Libya with two warring governments, respectively seated in Tripoli and Benghazi. The United Nations recognizes the former, while Libya’s oil resources are located in the Benghazi region.
The integration of the Maghreb region in the world’s financial and technical sectors is a time consuming process, but full of potential. In particular, the conciliatory tone displayed by Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI, could unite the region. As political tensions defuse, the economic capacity of the region can begin to be realized.