Regional overview: Middle East and North Africa
The Middle East and North Africa remains the third best region at enabling trade, with some top performers such as the United Arab Emirates (stable at 23rd) and Israel (up 12 to 30th). The region has further opened its domestic market access to foreign businesses over the past two years, as the average tariff rate applied by the region decreased from 9.2 to 8.2 percent. Like other areas of the world, oil-intensive economies lie significantly behind their potential and do not show signs of improvement: Bahrain (42nd, down one), Qatar (43rd, down 18), Oman (46th, down seven), Saudi Arabia (67th, down 11) and Kuwait (87th, down two). This trend will need to be reversed for these countries to transition more into manufacturing and other non-resource intensive activities. Algeria (121st, up six) and Morocco (49th, up three) have improved their positioning significantly, confirming the positive trend of increasing integration in the Western Mediterranean. Other countries in the region remain largely cut out of trade flows; in particular, Yemen (134th) and Iran, Islamic Rep. (132nd), where the lifting of international sanctions might improve the situation in the future.
Focus on selected MENA economies (in rank order)
The United Arab Emirates leads the Middle East and North Africa region in enabling trade, ranking 23rd globally. The UAE performs well largely due to its overall infrastructure (6th globally), with excellent scores for its air, port and road infrastructure. Since 2014, Dubai International Airport has become one of the world’s busiest airport in terms of international passengers, with expanding connections. The Jebel Ali Port is the region’s largest and set to grow with investment in its 3rd and 4th terminals. On the border administration front, UAE has seen improvements in its trade facilitation environment especially in terms of the services provided by customs and border agencies. However, import procedures remain burdensome and costly, with export processes only slightly better. In terms of market access, the UAE ranks 118th, with exports facing fairly high tariffs abroad and with very limited preference margins.
Jordan occupies the 45th place in the ETI sample, with a fairly consistent performance across the pillars. Jordan’s border processes score significantly better than the average in the region, with the cost of documentary and border compliance on both the import and export side being fairly low. However, the time required for border and documentary compliance for imports remains high. In terms of connectivity to markets, Jordan has seen an improvement in its shipping connectivity and the quality of rail infrastructure, though road infrastructure has slipped slightly. Looking at Jordan’s market access, its exports enjoy friendly terms, with an average tariff of 3.5 percent, while imports into the country face an average tariff of 7.4 percent and the overall structure remains complex, especially in terms of tariff peaks.
In spite of the availability of good transport and ICT infrastructure, Saudi Arabia enters the ranking at 67th this year, down 11 positions since 2014. Market access (116th) and border administration (83rd) remain the two weak spots of the country. Only 27 percent of imports enter the Saudi market free of duty, while exports face the sixth-highest average tariffs in the world (4.9 percent). Border compliance for importing is both costly (121st) and time-consuming (126th), with low information publicly available to traders (96th). Transport infrastructure (31st) benefits from good international air connectivity (23rd) and one of the best road systems in the world (2nd after the United States for speed of connection between the main cities). The operating environment suffers from restrictions to foreign participation, especially in terms of labour (105th) and foreign direct investment (116th).