The intra-Maghreb market remains one of the least dynamic in the world, with intra-regional trade hovering around three percent of the member countries' total imports, a recent study by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Office for North Africa in Rabat said.
The study pointed out that although the member states of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), including Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, and Tunisia, signed the Marrakech Treaty more than two decades ago, the AMU's free trade area is still "in draft form."
It added that the Maghreb market project continues to face various impediments which keep the economies of the sub-region in a state of fragmentation.
Examining the wider subregion of North Africa, which also includes Egypt and Sudan, the study said that intra-regional trade remains very marginal, accounting for around four percent of the total foreign trade in the sub-region.
Although trade between the seven countries in the union doubled between 2007 and 2013, the study reported that its volume remains well below the African continental average of 12 percent.
According to the study, the poor performance can be explained by several factors, including the persistence of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, high indirect costs caused by lack of integration and the shortcomings of national regulatory frameworks.
It added that this situation is also related to the fact that despite their effort to facilitate trade and improve transport infrastructures, the countries have not paid significant attention to interstate cooperation to facilitate trade and deepen the integration process.
Karima Bounemra Ben Soltane, director of the ECA office for North Africa, explains the aim of the study "is to help promote the growth of trade by proposing a regional outline plan to facilitate interstate transport, transit and trade in the North Africa region."
The AMU is a trade agreement aiming for an economic and future political unity among Arab countries of the Maghreb in North Africa.
However, the union is often stalling due to deep political and economical disagreements between Morocco and Algeria regarding, among others, the issue of Western Sahara.