Trade liberalization and poverty in the Middle East and North Africa

Nicholas Minot, Mohamed Abdelbasset Chemingui, Marcelle Thomas, Reno Dewina, David Orden
ifpri research monograph

Agricultural trade liberalization has been resisted by many developing country policymakers, including those in the Middle East and North Africa, for fear it could hurt domestic farmers and exacerbate poverty. The authors of Trade Liberalization and Poverty in the Middle East and North Africa argue, however, that this concern about liberalization might be misplaced. Drawing on case studies from Egypt, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia, the study uses household survey data and computable general equilibrium models to simulate the effects of various liberalization scenarios on different types of households in these countries, especially poor households. The results indicate that agricultural trade barriers are not an effective means of protecting the poor and that the benefits from many forms of agricultural trade liberalization to the region’s consumers outweigh the costs to producers. If complemented with other domestic programs—including agricultural research and extension, information services, disease control, and social safety nets—the reforms have the potential to reduce poverty in these nations. The study findings are a valuable resource for policymakers and development specialists evaluating the role trade liberalization can play in economic development and poverty reduction.