On July 18 in Rome, Italy, Ambassador Giandomenico Magliano, Director General for Globalization in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy and Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Robert Hormats of the United States chaired a meeting of the Deauville Partnership with Arab Countries in Transition. The subject of the meeting was the development and promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises in the transition countries of Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Jordan. The meeting brought together efforts on the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as specified in the three pillars of the partnership: governance; finance; and trade, investment and integration. The work of the Partnership in 2012 takes place under the G-8 presidency of the United States.
The Co-Chairs of the Rome meeting on July 18 summarize the results as follows:
The members of the Deauville Partnership with Arab Countries in Transition continue to stress the importance of open government, accountability, and a fair and efficient regulatory environment to promote inclusive economic growth, transparency, rule of law, and job creation as part of a successful democratic transition. On July 18, 2012, representatives of the Partnership countries met in Rome, Italy. Participants focused on the development and promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises, drawing in part on the July 17 meeting of the Working Group on SME Policy, Entrepreneurship and Human Capital Development of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), also hosted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Co-Chairs underline the contributions of international financial institutions in SME development in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. They also note that the platform established by the OECD, UNDP and others to facilitate information sharing, co-operation and operational dialogue within the governance pillar of the Partnership is an important element for its success. All participants recognized the roles the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and OECD played in facilitating this process.
Policy Environments for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
The Partnership, with the assistance of multinational institutions, is reviewing legal, regulatory, and administrative practices for the establishment and growth of small and medium-sized businesses in transition countries. All parties recognize that governments can improve the business climate for SMEs by streamlining registration and permitting procedures; increasing competition; advancing rule of law; reducing corruption; improving banking and other financial services, including access to existing credit; improving the tax environment; and promoting cross-border trade. Improved practices will contribute to higher and more inclusive economic growth, more jobs, and a more vibrant civil society.
All members of the Deauville Partnership with Arab Countries in Transition consider it a priority to advance economic growth in the MENA region through the promotion of SMEs and entrepreneurship. As a group, G8 members, transition countries, regional partner countries, and multilateral organizations have developed initiatives to improve the environment for businesses and create opportunities for SMEs. Partners will continue to collaborate, in particular with multilateral institutions, to provide functional expertise and technical assistance. Given challenges related to reform of the regulatory environment and access to finance, these institutions will be instrumental in helping to structure arrangements that give current and prospective business owners a stable operating environment, useful advice, and solid financial footing to start up, grow and sustain their businesses.
Representatives of the African Development Bank, World Bank/International Finance Corporation, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Islamic Development Bank, Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, Union for the Mediterranean and OECD presented diagnoses of SME policy environments in the MENA region and ideas for further progress. Officials of the transition countries spoke about the SME environment in their countries and policies geared towards SME promotion. G8 members provided written summaries of bilateral assistance programs to advance SME development in the MENA region.
Through the remainder of the year, partners agreed to take additional steps to support SME development. International financial institutions, coordinated by the African Development Bank, will continue work on longer term, in-depth assessments of the SME environment in the MENA region. In the shorter term, the OECD together with transition countries, in coordination with multinational institutions, G8 members, and regional partner countries, will draft concept notes, based on a consistent template developed by the governments of Italy and Tunisia, on views of near-term country-specific plans for SME development in the MENA region, to identify clear constraints, outline short-term policy and regulatory measures to address them, and identify areas in which support from partner countries is needed.
The transition countries and OECD, in collaboration with partners, will aim to complete the concept notes by mid-September and distribute to all stakeholders, including multinational institutions, G-8 members, and regional partner countries, for input and reaction.
Officials of the Deauville Partnership with Arab Countries in Transition will meet again in Amman, Jordan, on October 1-2 to discuss further the concept notes, with the aim of endorsing the country-specific plans, and mobilizing support for their efforts.
Participants look forward to continuing the critical work of the Deauville Partnership with Arab Countries in Transition. The U.S. Presidency notes that in the Camp David Declaration, issued May 19, 2012, G8 leaders called for a meeting in September of Foreign Ministers to review progress being made under the Partnership. We expect that meeting will be used to discuss, inter alia, progress in the ratification of the expansion of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development into the MENA region, open governance and anti-corruption, asset recovery, international exchanges and the launch of a new Transition Fund to provide technical assistance and capacity building to transition countries.